When it comes to bashing the credibility of Wikipedia, enough is enough. The information you receive on that web site is easily on par with so-called legitimate sources.

When it comes to bashing the credibility of Wikipedia, enough is enough. The information you receive on that web site is easily on par with so-called legitimate sources.

The naysayers claim Wikipedia can’t be trusted because its 3.7 million English-language articles can be generated or edited by most anyone, and frequently contain blatant biases. Yes, that’s true and shouldn’t be disputed. Its articles are written by someone you likely don’t know with the ability to write whatever they feel is true, find some citations to support their writings, and massage the information to their benefit.

You know, kind of like a college professor who writes his own textbook, a journalist, a non-fiction author, a clergyman, a webmaster/writer, a blogger, folks who post Bible verses on Facebook, teachers, a public relations specialist, and most anyone who attempts to communicate as an authority on a given subject.

From moment to moment, there are few reliable ways to determine if what you’re reading is true and factual. For instance, at the expense of this writer’s credibility, how do you really know that Wikipedia contains 3.7 million English-language articles?

Were you satisfied that the information appeared in a newspaper, which is a supposed bastion of accuracy? Do you trust this writer, someone you’ve likely never met? Did you visit Wikipedia and count all 3.7 million articles? Beyond that, did you notice the obvious bias of this particular column is that Wikipedia is credible?

For all you know I could have never visited Wikipedia until the moment I wrote this column. To be fair, this is an opinion column and Wikipedia is supposed to be source of fact.

Let’s look at mainstream media coverage of Hurricane Irene. Reporters and editors at USA Today that you’ve never met (and likely with no expertise in meteorology) reported Aug. 29 that more than 20 people died and 50,000 Vermont residents were without power as a result of the hurricane’s impact.

Yours truly thinks USA Today is the best newspaper in the nation but, similar to a Wikipedia article, I have few ways of verifying if any of that information is true short of contacting folks in Vermont (they’re kind of busy right now). The article I read uses a quote from the state’s governor to support its claim that the resulting flooding is “the worst flooding to hit the state in a century.” Heck, I don’t know if the reporter is a real person.

Wikipedia isn’t guaranteed to be accurate and has its share of misinformation and bias. Then again, those statements are true regarding most everything you read. The most learned folks gather information from a variety of sources, take it with a grain of salt, and form their own judgments.

The strength of Wikipedia is that it’s another source from which to gather information.

A source that’s as legitimate as anything else you might use.