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May 6, 2009

Someone clearly skipped their first year journalism school course Info/Vis course. Lesson one: Wikipedia is not a credible primary resource. Especially not for quotes.

By someone we actually mean a handful of journalists from The Guardian,the London Independent, the BBC Music Magazine website and from some Indian and Australian newspapers.

Maurice Jarre: "When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear,” (did not actually say this).

Back in March, Shane Fitzgerald, a student in Dublin, edited the Wiki page of recently deceased French composer Maurice Jarre, adding a cheesy fake quote about how music is life. He did it in the hopes that obituary writers would take the bait.

And did they ever.

“I didn’t expect it to go that far. I expected it to be in blogs and sites, but on mainstream quality papers? I was very surprised about,” he said.

However, the hoax remained undiscovered for weeks until Fitzgerald e-mailed offending newspapers to tell them that they had published an inaccurate quote.

“I don’t think it would have been found out unless I had told them so,” Fitzgerald said yesterday. In recent days the Guardian printed a correction and an article about the hoax.

Some of the publications corrected the error, some places didn’t. Wikipedia took the quote down pretty quickly since it didn’t have a citation.

As a side note, technically the quote can have a citation now from one of the fuck-ups. And that, dear readers, is how you alter truth. Nineteen Eighty-Four, anyone?

Assorted journalists:


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