Letters to the Editor

Wikipedia is a fantastic tool, and it teaches us the value of fact-checking

From the left: Brook Molnar, student and faculty members Inga Doroz, Michelle Craig, Marcia Harvey work on Wikipedia entries. Cuesta College recently hosted a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, an effort to encourage more female editors.
From the left: Brook Molnar, student and faculty members Inga Doroz, Michelle Craig, Marcia Harvey work on Wikipedia entries. Cuesta College recently hosted a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, an effort to encourage more female editors. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Wikipedia is brilliant and democratic, offering free information that can be edited by readers. Although false information sometimes shows up in entries (readers who spot such anomalies can correct them, or can notify the website), Wikipedia is a plausible first step in research.

However, no one — Wikipedia included — recommends Wikipedia as a singular source. Its function is to give an overview, a jumping-off point for research. A big blessing of Wikipedia is that because of it we have become accustomed to checking information against primary sources, reliable websites, newspapers, books or scholarly papers.

Of course, dedicated and caring teachers have long trained students to do this. But now, research is an essential survival tool. In the era of fake news, information disseminated by government agencies, Congress or the White House requires constant monitoring and verification by alert citizens. We must assiduously check and correct the information we are fed.

We cannot blindly trust our leaders any more than we can blindly trust Wikipedia entries. In making us accustomed to verifying information, Wikipedia has truly been a blessing!

Kate Yarbrough, Los Osos

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