Watch CBSN Live

A Wicked-pedia

Retired journalist John Seigenthaler writes in USA Today about his experience with "Internet character assassination." Mr. Seigenthaler was upset at the "biography" posting about him on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

The philosophy behind Wikipedia and similar "wikis" is to create open-source community definitions for words, events and other bits of information. Theoretically, the more people contributing to a given topic entry, the better the definition because you are drawing from various perspectives, backgrounds and expertise rather than a limited number of sources. Anyone can go into a given wiki and change it. Seigenthaler discovered he had a biographical entry on Wikipedia, which read, in part:

"John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960's. 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."
What about that was so upsetting to Seigenthaler?
"One sentence in the biography was true. I was Robert Kennedy's administrative assistant in the early 1960s. I also was his pallbearer."
Seigenthaler details his unsuccessful attempts to find the author of the Wikipedia entry and concludes:
"When I was a child, my mother lectured me on the evils of 'gossip.' She held a feather pillow and said, 'If I tear this open, the feathers will fly to the four winds, and I could never get them back in the pillow. That's how it is when you spread mean things about people.'

For me, that pillow is a metaphor for Wikipedia."