There’s really no other way to put it: what a clusterfuck.
For those with real lives who don’t follow obscure websites and the self-righteous rantings of journalists, let’s recap. So, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia
—an admittedly frightening experiment wherein anybody (anybody
) can post just about anything they want—published a libelous, unprovable and preposterous definition of former Tennessean
publisher John Seigenthaler.
When he discovered it, Seigenthaler justifiably went on a rampage both to have the blurb
corrected, which he was eventually able to do, and to discover the identity of his character assassin, which he’s working on. Last week, in a widely read piece in USA Today
, Seigenthaler took on Wikipedia and, indeed, warned about the dangers of online citizen media in general.
Then, in an expanded Sunday piece in The Tennessean
’s Issues section, the daily newspaper managed to leave out the one element the lengthy piece needed to have for readers to understand what the hell was going on: the offending sentences from the Wikipedia definition: “John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960s. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.”
Those three sentences never appeared in The Tennessean
’s story. This portion of the Wikipedia definition, however, did: “John Seigenthaler moved to the Soviet Union in 1971, and returned to the United States in 1984. He started one of the country's largest public relations firms shortly thereafter.”
No doubt the newspaper’s readers were wondering why Seigenthaler would get so frothed at being accused of moving to Russia, which, while incorrect, wouldn’t qualify as “Internet character assassination,” as he wrote in the piece. (And it was his late brother Tom who started the PR firm.) “I have no idea whose sick mind conceived the false, malicious ‘biography’ that appeared under my name for 132 days on Wikipedia, the popular, online, free encyclopedia whose authors are unknown and virtually untraceable.” (Read his entire USA Today piece here
Moral: stick with Encyclopedia Britannica, and let’s all move on.
About two months ago, Desperately wrote that former Tennessean
editor Frank Sutherland had been tapped by the new publisher to undertake some projects for her, much like he’d done for her predecessor Leslie Giallombardo. He was to move from his workspace overlooking Broadway into her office suite clear across the building so that they could work more closely together. That lasted for only “the first couple of days,” publisher Ellen Leifeld says, dismissing rumors that Sutherland’s consulting work for her ended almost as soon as it began. “He’s still working on them…. My office is pretty busy these days.”
Two hands clapping
Congratulations to Tennessean
reporter Brad Schrade, who managed to get a rascal kicked off the state payroll. Every journalist’s dream is to send someone to jail, but hell, this was almost as good. Schrade’s recent digging turned up evidence that the Tennessee Highway Patrol was playing politics with promotions, then he reported that THP head Col. Lynn Pitts tried to buy a boat his own agency had confiscated—which is against state law. Pitts was forced to resign earlier this week.
Just one word of advice for the intrepid reporter: slow down.
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