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Around The 'Sphere: Of Wiki Controversies, Personal Blogs And War Reporters

Just when you thought you'd heard all the controversy you were going to hear in this millennium about Wikipedia – there's more! It appears that the online encyclopedia has banned computers in House and Senate offices from altering or creating Wikipedia entries. The ban came after an investigation by The Lowell Sun, a Massachusetts newspaper, revealed that staff for Rep. Marty Meehan (D) made changes to his Wikipedia biography "that replaced negative yet accurate information with content having a more positive slant. Among the changes: removing references to Meehan's promise to serve only eight years," writes the St. Louis Post Dispatch, adding:
Further review uncovered thousands of changes made to other Wikipedia entries by House and Senate staffers since last summer. Unlike the Meehan edits, however, some changes weren't complementary. In one instance, someone from the House wrote that Republican Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia "smells like cow dung." In another, someone removed criticism of Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware from his Wikipedia page.
So, congressional staffers are messing around on the Internet during work hours and comparing political opponents to cow dung. I'm shocked and appalled.

A few months back, we noted that CBS News had introduced a new policy regarding employees' use of personal blogs – they must be approved by Linda Mason, senior vice president of standards and special projects at CBS News. The Washington Times today looks at similar such policies at local Washington, D.C., news outlets. At Washingtonpost.com, for example, "employees must let editors review their personal blogs, said Executive Editor Jim Brady. As long as there are no conflicts of interest, there's no problem." So far, Brady told the Times that there has been no reason to remove anyone's personal blog (removing comments from the Post's blog is a different story.) Some of the news outlets that the Times spoke with have yet to institute any formal policies about personal blogs.

Also unresolved is the apparent litany of legal issues surrounding the existence of blogs. Cyberjournalist links to this article by an attorney who explores whether bloggers are journalists. Defining who is a journalist and who is not was of particular interest when Judy Miller was locked in a legal battle over whether she would reveal her source, and it's probably one that will come up again.

As coverage of the dangers that journalists face in reporting from Iraq reaches critical mass lately, Poynter links to the Freedom Forum's revealing look at how many journalists have been killed covering the Iraq war, compared to Desert Storm, Vietnam, the Korean War and World War II. According to the Freedom Forum, the number of deaths among journalists covering Iraq is surpassed only by World War II.