Published September 10, 2012
You can’t make this stuff up.
Wikipedia refused to correct an error about a major work of literature, even after the error was pointed out -- by the author himself.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Roth penned the book “The Human Stain” about a college professor deemed a racist for an innocent comment he made in class one day, despite the character's secret, African-American heritage. The Wikipedia entry for the book incorrectly noted that it was inspired by the life of writer Anatole Broyard.
But when Roth petitioned to have the mistake corrected, he was told he could not. Roth, the work’s author, wasn’t a reliable enough source.
“When, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the ‘English Wikipedia Administrator’ … that I, Roth, was not a credible source,” the literary lion wrote in an essay “An Open Letter to Wikipedia” in The New Yorker.
Ironically, Roth was told that his perspective on the book he wrote wasn’t enough. Wikipedia required corroborating evidence.
“I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” the Wikipedia Administrator told him. “But we require secondary sources.”
So the wordsmith picked up pen and paper and put together an essay for The New Yorker explaining the true origin of his book. It was, in fact, based on the life of late Princeton sociology professor Melvin Tumin; while Roth has met Broyard several times, the book wasn’t based on his life.
“This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness, but from the babble of literary gossip — there is no truth in it at all,” Roth wrote.
Following the publication of Roth’s essay on Friday, Wikipedia updated its article.