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Denmark: #TV2Wikigate

danish-wikipedia-logoLast month, two Danish television hosts aiming to show that the participatory online encyclopedia Wikipedia is unreliable, instead ended up defending their own credibility when it was uncovered that the errors they showed off on television had been created by someone working for the program.

Wikipedia enthusiasts took up the fight [da] with TV2, and the ensuing public debate has centered on questions of journalistic integrity. On Twitter, it quickly became known as #TV2wikigate.

Stefan Bøgh-Andersen who manages the Danish RSS feed search engine Overskrift.dk has kept a thorough time line [da] on his blog of the Danish media, blog, and Twitter reactions to the scandal throughout the month of May. This post is based on his links.

Anders Breinholt and Cecilie Frøkjær

Anders Breinholt and Cecilie Frøkjær

You can see an archived video of the program (May 13) on TV2′s website. The hosts of the TV2 program Go’ Morgen Danmark, Cecilie Frøkjær and Anders Breinholt demonstrate supposedly laughable errors in the Danish Wikipedia entries for themselves, and encourage viewers not to trust what they read on the internet.

Since the “history” of all Wikipedia pages show which users make what changes, it was quickly uncovered by a Wikipedia user that the IP address of the person who created an error in Frøkjær's date of birth on May 12 matched that of the production company of the morning show.

Incidentally, the history page also shows that the error was corrected only four minutes later by another Wikipedia user.

Danish blogosphere bites back

On Bootstrapping.net, Thomas Madsen-Mygdal wrote [en]:

Yesterday the main morning news show ran a story about how anyone can edit wikipedia. They make fun of a world where everyone can participate and spread fear about how dangerous it can be.

To prove the point they humorously tried to show that they had edited the hosts’ own wikipedia entries with some prank statements. Like small bullies in kindergarten doing it on national television – f*** with our collective creation Wikipedia. Arrogance is a small word for it.

On Blog.Flugge.Net [da], Matthias Flügge Hansen magnified the Wikipedia screenshot shown on television to prove that it was not the live webpage, but probably a photo-shopped image.

Claus Dahl of Notes from Classy's Kitchen said the media must be coming up with these stories to make themselves look better. He wrote [da]: “The sub-text is of course, ‘who could possibly trust stories that are not produced by journalists?'”.

Media lies or satire?

Bloggers were even more incensed [da] when a TV2 editor, Jes Schrøder, defended the fabricated story in an interview with Journalisten.dk [da] the trade publication of the Danish Union of Journalists, on May 15.

Schrøder said the hosts were merely trying to show funny examples of what one could have written if one wanted to manipulate the text on Wikipedia. When he was pressed on whether that was an excuse for lying on television, he insisted it had been an attempt at “satire”.

Here is the apology that was eventually issued by TV2 on May 18. “We apologize for imprecisions,” says Frøkjær.

The aftermath

Danish social media company, Socialsquare, (co-founded by Madsen-Mygdal) organized a meeting on May 19 for organizations to discuss how to engage productively with online communities. Andreas Lloyd offered some practical tips [en], including “Get the facts straight” and “Show respect for culture you don’t understand”.

In Mediebloggen, Lars K Jensen wrote an analysis [da] on May 24 of what the scandal had demonstrated about the Danish blogosphere.

On the one hand, said Jensen, bloggers uncovered the story and were able to grab the attention of the press. On the other hand, they did not demonstrate the ability to take matters any further themselves. Instead they merely added their opinions to the echo chamber:

Hvem førte så historien videre? Jo, det gjorde et af de “gamle medier”: Journalisten.

Hvad var fremgangsmåden? Hvordan fik man historien videre? Jo, man greb knoglen og ringede til TV 2-redaktør Jes Schrøder. Uden at kunne sige det med 100 procent sikkerhed, så tror jeg ikke, at nogen af dem, der omtalte sagen på blogs og/eller Twitter overhovedet har forsøgt at kontakte TV 2.

So who followed up on the story? Well, one of the ‘old media’ did: Journalisten.

How did they do it? How did they move the story forward? Well, they picked up the horn and called TV2 editor, Jes Schrøder. I can't say it with 100 per cent certainty, but I don't think any of the people who discussed the case on blogs and/or Twitter ever attempted to contact TV2.

Det er muligt, at det er sådan blogs “skal” være, men det flytter ikke historierne nogen vegne.

Er det en konsolidering i mediebilledet, vi ser nu? At sociale medier og græsrødder finder historierne, mens medierne kører den sikkert hjem og bringer os og selve historien videre. Jeg tror det, og det er ikke nødvendigvis noget dårligt. Selve blog-mediet er rettet mod, at folk kan lufte deres egne holdninger, synspunkter og erfaringer.

Maybe this is how blogs “should” be, but it doesn't really move the stories anywhere.

Is what we are seeing a consolidation of the media? That social media and grassroots find the stories, while the media drive it home and carry us and the story further. I think so, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. The blog medium is intended to let people air their own opinions, views, and experiences.

  • http://www.caribbeanfreeradio.com/blog Georgia Popplewell

    Thanks for sharing this, Solana. Makes me realise as well how little news from Denmark even a former member of the PuertoDansk Society is regularly exposed to. :)

    Jensen’s observations are similar to one made recently by a journalist friend of mine with regard to a story about a journalist who was dismissed from his job at a newspaper here in Trinidad, allegedly because he wrote things his editor (and who knows who else?) didn’t like. “How many of you called the paper to get the newspaper’s side of the story??” asked my indignant journalist friend of the people (myself included) and others who were commenting on the issue on blogs, Facebook etc.

    I responded by asking whether she thought a newspaper editor in Trinidad would deign to give information to somebody identifying themselves as a blogger. My hunch is that the editor wouldn’t. Or even if he/she did, he/she would give a canned response.

    Which is not to condone the behaviour of people who claim to have a total grasp of a story when they obviously don’t. But Jensen’s reading of the dynamic that seems to be developing between traditional journalism and citizen media in certain markets seems right.

  • http://www.solanasaurus.com/ Solana Larsen

    Yes, Jensen’s comment made me think too. We all have sort of assigned roles – bloggers often seem content in more of a commenting role, and there is definitely a question of access. Can a random person just pick up the phone and demand an interview with an editor? You never know.

    The only flaw in Jensen’s critique is that many of the bloggers who are most active in the Danish blogosphere are actually journalists themselves (including himself). Is the same true in Trinidad?

    It’s almost as though you wear different hats; sometimes a blogger other times a journalist. In which case, you might ask – does blogging make journalists better at their work? At least you take the long view and look at the media from the outside (which you rarely do when you’re stuck in the thick of it). But if no one takes it upon themselves to “move the story forward” as he says, it makes no difference.

    So perhaps this is more of a human characteristic than a characteristic of the blogosphere. After all, there are just as many endless examples of “old media” not following up on important stories. At least the tension between old and new media can draw out the time period between the break of a story, until someone finally just decides to do something about it :-)

    It’s certainly a good sign if bloggers are asking more and more, is there anything I could have done?

    We see stories on Global Voices all the time, where individual bloggers decide to make a cause their business and rally others to support them. It doesn’t mean that everybody does it, but it’s certainly reaffirms that it’s possible – anywhere in the world.

  • http://www.caribbeanfreeradio.com/blog Georgia Popplewell

    There are a handful of journalists here in Trinidad who are also bloggers—not a significant number. If that’s the case with Denmark, it’s certainly a flaw in the argument.

    Agree that there are numerous pre-blogging examples of “old media” engaging with ordinary citizens and using them as a source of info, e.g. the eyewitness report, the “vox pop”/”man-in-the-street” interview, the person who calls into the media outlet to report what s/he just saw, etc. What “old media” rails against, of course, is the fact that these ordinary citizens can now publish this information themselves, encroaching on old media territory and, in some cases, scooping old media or generally making life difficult.

    Either way, interesting story, and happy to hear about what’s going on in the land of open sandwiches and frikadelle. :)

  • http://bernyblog.wordpress.com bernardo parrella

    yes, great story, solana – i’ll definitely use in the intro to the rome meeting about citizenmedia, ‘cos it could have very well happened in italy too…or even worse there: usually most “journalists” ignore and ridicule whatever bloggers or citizens have to say, and very rarely they publish letters to the editors with some meaningful opinions or correct publicly any of their own mistakes

    of course, we cannot generalize and in some parts of the world *it does happen* that random people can talk with editors and even have their stories published in printed or online edition (not just their comments) – it’s not so rare in US newspapers, for example –

    so we’d always try to bridge and foster collaboration between old & new media – but in this context the accusation against bloggers because they “didn’t move the story forward” is just a smoke screen – like the attitude of most old media/journalists in italy – a bad faith proposition, a trap we’d be careful not to fall into

  • http://strangelyperfect.tv Strangely

    Crikey Solana!
    Excellent posting. I’m a ‘Wikipedia enthusiast’ in that I use it all the time.
    It goes to show the depths some so-called ‘professionals’ will go to in order to justify their existence.
    It’s like the old question, “what is truth”? In this case, like liberty and freedom, you’ve got to keep an eye on it at all times. You never know who’s trying to take it away…

    Thanks.

  • Pingback: TV2wikigate tidslinie - sagen om TV2 vs Wikipedia | Overskrifts underskrift

  • http://medieblogger.dk Lars K Jensen

    Hi folks,

    First of all big thanks to Solana for taking this matter to an international level, that’s main problem with being Danish online – a language that only we ourselves understand :-)

    As I wrote in my post (which Solana linked to), I see a tendency where bloggers and grass root media pick up a story and then the “big media” or “old media” picks it up and carries it on.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing. Actually I think it’s a good thing. Mainly because both “sides” benefit from this.

    Bloggers and grass roots show their strengths: Looking across the world (both on- and offline) for cases, situations and wrong-doings that might be worth a story. Of course it’s not always negative stories, but let’s face it — a lot of stories take off because someone notices injustice somewhere.

    They then post this story to show that they are in disagreement with what has happened.

    If the story is big enough, or has another certain impact, it may get picked up by “big media”, and now the “big guns” can show their strengs:

    A big audience and an ability to get people to talk, when they call them. This can bring the story to a larger crowd of people and move the story on.

    I too question whether or not a person would “bother” answering questions from a non-media person — but just let me stress, that I think they should :-)

    But then again: Why shouln’t bloggers and others try to get the points of view from the persons in question? As we say in Danish: “The worst you can get is a no”.

    I for one would like to see, what would happen then. Would the media quote the blog (which they are not always very good at, at least here in Denmark) or would they pick of the phone and call the person themselves? Well, I guess we just have to wait and see.

    I didn’t mean to downplay the role of bloggers and grass roots in my post. Yes, I’m a journalist of education (working as a project manager) and some in the Danish corner of the blogosphere a journalists — if it’s “many” I won’t start to define, since “many” is a size varying from person to person.

    I am not sure how me being a journalist could be a “flaw”, regarding my post? Please clarify on that and I will reply :-)

    All the best — and thanks again for raising this to the non-Danish realm of the web :-)
    // Lars

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