Francena H. and Frank M. Arnold, my grandmother and grandfather
Whenever I’m getting a little too full of myself, I can find some humble pie by recalling or looking up what my grandmother accomplished. I ate a lot of humble pie recently learning in greater detail than I ever knew about her achievements.
Grandma wrote her first novel, Not My Will, at age 58 (my age right now). And her books have sold more than 1.2 million copies. But until recently, she didn’t have a Wikipedia entry. Now she does. I wrote it.
Writing a Wikipedia entry – or at least editing a Wikipedia page – had long been on my someday-to-do list (a list on which I make meager progress). I was thinking I might write one about Bob Moore, a World War II hero from Villisca, Iowa, whose life (and the lives of some family members) I chronicled in 1997 for the Omaha World-Herald and updated in 2008 for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. He’s certainly worthy of a Wikipedia entry, but no one’s written it yet (and few know more about him than I do). But I hadn’t gotten around to it. Maybe I will someday.
My prod to become a Wikipedia contributor came in a series of emails starting last October. First an academic researcher contacted me (having found a brief mention of Grandma on my blog). The researcher’s work hasn’t been published yet, so he asked me not to use his name. So I’ve edited his email slightly to respect that request:
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Francena H. Arnold
Here’s my original draft of my Wikipedia entry about my grandmother, Francena H. Arnold. To leave it sort of in the format of a Wikipedia entry, I have left the footnotes as footnotes rather than linking in context (except to other Wikipedia entries). I also have added individual sales figures for her books and translation information, which I actually received after doing the first draft and discuss in my post about the process of getting Grandma into Wikipedia.
My cousin, Jan Worgul Ackerson edited this before I submitted to Wikipedia. I have used some of her edits, but have not made most of the cuts she suggested because I decided to use Grandma’s full story here (as full as I could tell it anyway). Jan correctly suggested that it probably needed to be more dispassionate for Wikipedia. While I did that for Wikipedia, I have not tried to tone down any passion here (for what it’s worth, I thought I was being pretty dispassionate when I wrote it, but Jan’s pretty passionate about Grandma, so I accept her judgment. You may see some hints of affection or admiration). I also added photos, which I have not done in the Wikipedia entry (if you’d like to help me figure out how to upload photos to Wikipedia, please contact me.)
Francena H. Arnold was a 20th century novelist, author of the Christian fiction classic Not My Will and nine other books.1
Not My Will has sold more than 500,000 copies2 and has been translated into at least seven languages. Published by Moody Press, it remains in print and available as an electronic book 66 years after it was first published. (more…)
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Posted in Accuracy, Ethics, Media issues, tagged accuracy, Brittanica, John Seigenthaler, journalism ethics, Lucy Holman Rector, Mark S. Luckie, Wikipedia on October 16, 2009 |
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Journalists pride ourselves in being accurate and on being current with the latest news. So let’s update our inaccurate views of Wikipedia.
A 10,000 Words post by Mark S. Luckie today offers lots of good advice for reporters on pleasing their editors, including this piece:
Fact-check your stories. Any editor worth their salt will inevitably ask where certain information came from. Be ready for this with explicit answers and a list of your sources. And for the love of all things holy, don’t say Wikipedia.
I heartily endorse the advice to fact-check stories, and I agree that Wikipedia alone is not a sufficient source. But it’s way past time for journalists (and academics, for that matter) to get beyond our arrogant dismissal of Wikipedia and include it in our box of imperfect tools for verifying facts. In fact, if Wikipedia has an entry on a topic you’re writing about, it would be an excellent first place for a journalist to start checking facts. (more…)
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