Born, raised and educated in a vineyard

A garbled article on a prominent Israeli anchorwoman raises questions about Wikipedia.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
Where can we turn if we want find out a little information about Tamar Ish-Shalom, the stunningly beautiful and intelligent anchorwoman who became the face of Channel 10 news when Ya’akov Eilon stepped down in 2012?
Let’s check Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is prone to change at any time, but this is what the renowned online user-written encyclopedia said about her in a recent check:
“Tamar Ish-Shalom is a journalist, announcer, the wife of the Israeli television and radio.
“Ish-Shalom was born, raised and educated in a vineyard in Jerusalem. Her mother is Dr. Biochemistry and university professor… As a child, she lived a man of peace in the United States as part of her father’s mission for about three years.”
Confused? Don’t fire off a letter to the editor of Metro recommending termination of employment for a copy editor who can’t spot and correct English errors. The above garbled text is transcribed from Wikipedia accurately.
You can’t make stuff like this up – it’s too deliciously absurd.
The Wikipedia entry continues (please read the following with a “sic” understood):
“Entered the army in 1999, and her military service made a police reporter for Army Radio, where among other events covered during the Second Intifada. Even after her release from military service in 2001, continued to work on Army Radio civilian employee until 2004, during these years was used in part as a reporter Knesset, serving ‘24 - the day was’, and editor of the station’s morning logs.”
Did anyone manage to make sense of that? Is Ish-Shalom’s life history becoming clearer to us now?
Actually – and perhaps somewhat frighteningly – I find that I’m beginning to get the hang of reading this Wikipedia text. Let’s skip to the end of the section about her biography so that we can be as up-to-date as possible about the life of our popular newscaster:
“In late April 2012, with the resignation of Ya’akov Eilon role serves edition, began a peace submit four times a week edition of five. The other day a week submitted his release Guy Zohar, Until That Tali Moreno replaced him in September 2013, with the start of broadcasts from Jerusalem edition”
A truly illuminating and crisply written biography, indeed. Thank you, Wikipedia.
RANKED AMONG the globe’s 10 most popular websites, Wikipedia is the Internet’s – and, therefore, mankind’s – largest and most popular general reference work.
The English version is the largest, but including all Wikipedias in more than 250 languages, there is a grand total of more than 38 million articles, garnering more than 18 billion page views from nearly 500 million unique visitors each month (all data from – you guessed it – Wikipedia).
Clearly, Wikipedia is popular and heavily relied upon.
But is it accurate?
A 2005 peer review of 42 Wikipedia scientific entries concluded that “the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies.”
In an article written that same year, Andrew Orlowski reported that Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales “has acknowledged there are real quality problems with the online work.”
Orlowski refers us to work carried out by author Nicholas Carr, who examined the quality of two entries picked at random: Bill Gates and Jane Fonda, and concluded: “This is garbage, an incoherent hodge-podge of dubious factoids that adds up to something far less than the sum of its parts.”
Wales admitted that Carr was right: “The two examples he puts forward are, quite frankly, a horrific embarrassment. Bill Gates and Jane Fonda are nearly unreadable crap.”
The entry on Ish-Shalom falls into this category. One assumes that her article was written in Hebrew and then passed through an automatic translator (or possibly a group of monkeys with typewriters).
Other problems with the reliability and lack of consistent quality in Wikipedia stem from the fact that the entries are written and edited not necessarily by experts, but by anyone who takes an interest in the topic.
Unfortunately, sometimes that interest is hostile.
In 2008, the Wikipedia entry on a flagship Israeli hi-tech firm fell into the hands of apparent Israel bashers who tarnished the company by infusing the entry with negative text, conspiracy theories and more. Efforts by an inexperienced novice editor to reach a consensus with the hostile zealots and hammer out a full, balanced, truthful entry were rebuffed. Finally, in 2011, an experienced Wikipedia editor spotted the article and wrote: “This is one of the most biased, skewed, and poorly done articles I’ve ever seen.” His personal involvement ultimately resulted in a fair representation of the company that had been maligned for more than three years.
VIRTUALLY EVERY entry in Wikipedia about topics related to Israel and Judaism has long faced the challenge of an onslaught by a large number of politically or religiously motivated editors promoting their own biases and narratives.
With vandalism and pranks becoming increasingly common, Wikipedia announced a significant alteration to its editing policy several years ago, requiring changes to certain articles to be verified by an experienced volunteer before publication. This helped to improve the quality of the writing to some degree and enhance the online encyclopedia’s credibility and reliability.
Wikipedia admitted that its pages were too often “marred by opposing political views, immature writers, and false information.”
Unfortunately, examples abound.
The deaths of US senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, British newscaster Vernon Kay (drowned in a yachting accident), teen sensation Miley Cyrus and others were all reported in Wikipedia by users, and in many cases, the obituaries were picked up and reported by a number of major media outlets.
The problem is, none of the people were actually dead at the time.
At one time or another, one could read in Wikipedia that former British prime minister Tony Blair had “posters of Adolf Hitler on his bedroom wall as a teenager;” that British singer and actor Robbie Williams eats pet hamsters; that then-US speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is of Italian descent and “Italians drink children’s blood;” and that University of Cincinnati president Nancy Zimpher “is a witch, and flys around on a broom stick.”
Wikipedia was the sole source for the startling information that Greek philosopher Plato was “an ancient Hawaiian weather man and surfer, writer of cosmo girls and founder of the punahou in Ancient Florida, the first institution of learning in the western world. Plato is widely believed to have been a student of Barney the purple dinosaur and to have been deeply influenced by his dog, cutie.”
And if you haven’t yet put together final travel plans for your next vacation, consider making your way to the village of Denshaw near Greater Manchester, which is “home to an obese population of sun-starved, sheep hurling yokels with a brothel for a pub and a lingering tapeworm infection.” A real tourism magnet.
TO BE fair, it must admitted that we are being a little hard on Wikipedia. Credible studies have determined that its accuracy is near that of Encyclopedia Britannica, whose entries are penned by experts and professionals in the various subject fields.
While it is inevitable that some amount of “garbage” will be inserted into an online, user-created encyclopedia by vandals, pranksters, bigots and overzealous evangelists playing loose with the truth to promote causes close to their hearts, the most egregious examples of such mischief do not have a very long shelf life.
As a result of lessons learned from the past, virtually all edits now get passed to Wikipedia’s editors, who are quick to correct nonsense. More importantly, Wikipedia has unleashed a sophisticated “bot” that automatically reverts edits it doesn’t like. It catches much of the vandalism on the site immediately and has only a 0.1% incidence of false positives (as claimed by Wikipedia).
In other words, Wikipedia may not be perfect, but vandalism and errors that appear in it are quickly – or at least eventually – spotted and corrected.
Metro brought the issue of the laughable Wikipedia entry about their anchorwoman to the attention of Channel 10, and a major upgrade of the text was recently executed. That being said, as of this writing, the invaluable online resource still begins: “Ish-Shalom was raised on a vineyard in Jerusalem.”
Perhaps it really is true, then?
We should undoubtedly ask her mother, Dr. Biochemistry.
The writer is a sub-editor for Metro.