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Denmark: #TV2Wikigate

Categories: Western Europe, Denmark, Arts & Culture, Digital Activism, Ideas, Media & Journalism

danish-wikipedia-logo [1]Last 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 [2] [da] with TV2, and the ensuing public debate has centered on questions of journalistic integrity. On Twitter, it quickly became known as #TV2wikigate [3].

Stefan Bøgh-Andersen who manages the Danish RSS feed search engine Overskrift.dk [4] has kept a thorough time line [5] [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 [6] (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” [7]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 [8], 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 [9] [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 [10] 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 [11] [da] when a TV2 editor, Jes Schrøder, defended the fabricated story in an interview with Journalisten.dk [12] [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 [13], (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 [14] [en], including “Get the facts straight” and “Show respect for culture you don’t understand”.

In Mediebloggen, Lars K Jensen wrote an analysis [15] [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 [16]:

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.