Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Journalism in the age of Wikipedia

Over at the New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg has something interesting to say about interruptions in soccer:

Compared with its established rivals, big-time soccer is ill suited to televisual exploitation. The game’s continuous, almost uninterrupted flow of action denies it a steady supply of intervals for the advertising of beer and the fetching of same from the refrigerator.

I didn't mention that when I recently discussed how video reviews of referee decisions would interrupt the game, but the incompatibility of soccer with the commercial aspect of US sports has occurred to me. Having said that, it should be possible for soccer to be broadcast on publicly funded (PBS, BBC, etc.) or pay-per-view/ subscribed channels, which is basically what happens in Europe, where public television broadcasts some games alongside the premium channels. And of course, Europeans do not insist on having their beer that cold, so getting a beer from the fridge is not really a problem (and is one beer every 45 minutes not enough?).

What I found most interesting about his article, however, was the way Hendrik seems to have cobbled together a bunch of information from Wikipedia. At the beginning, he speaks of a game:

... that the rest of the world calls “football,” except when it’s called (for example) futbal, futball, fútbol, futebol, fotball, fótbolti, fußball, or (as in Finland) jalkapallo, which translates literally as “football.”

As a translator, I can assure you that, just 15 years ago, few people would have been able to line up
a list of equivalent terms like that across nine languages, but look up "football" today in Wikipedia, and you get a list of far more languages in the column to the left.

The rest of the article also contains things that seem too close to Wikipedia for comfort, such as the reference to Jack Kemp's comment that soccer is un-American, which (Hendrik/Wikipedia points out) was a comment apparently made in jest.

Does that overlapping matter? Somehow it bothers me. I suppose I expect a journalist to have deeper knowledge than Wikipedia and to do research that I can't do just surfing around Wikipedia at home. I also cannot be sure that his article is based on Wikipedia as much as it seems. Who knows, maybe he actually remembers Kemp making that statement? And maybe it just doesn't matter anyway in this age of cut & paste.

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