Cautionary tale: "Don't trust Wikipedia"
In her latest column, Toronto Star public editor Kathy English shares the story of Star intern Michael Woods, who learned the hard way how damaging unverified information can be.
Woods reported on the death of Rick Rypien, the 27-year-old Vancouver Canucks winger who was recently found dead after losing a hard-fought battle with depression. By all accounts Rypien had received full support from the Canucks organization through his troubles.
In his report, Woods quoted Canucks general manager Mike Gillis as having referred to Rypien as “crazy” in an interview last November with Vancouver Sun columnist Iain MacIntyre. What was the source of this information? Not the Vancouver Sun itself, but Wikipedia.
As it turns out, Gillis never said any such thing. The team issued a statement blasting the Star for publishing inaccurate, unfair information. In light of the mistake, the Star’s editor, Michael Cooke, sent a memo to the entire newsroom reminding them that information obtained from Wikipedia must be verified elsewhere. The Star also issued an apology the same day... but for Woods, the regret will linger.
"I’m not going to make excuses. It was an awful mistake, I did not do my due diligence," he said.