In many ways, Wikipedia is actually a better model for generating information than the traditional author/editor/publisher model. For one, as noted earlier, it’s far easier to fix things when they’re wrong. Try extracting a correction from a major news outlet, and see how far you get. Think of the recent controversy over an alleged bump of a rescue worker by Geraldo Rivera reported in the New York Times, which didn’t issue a correction until the paper’s public editor finally shamed them into it. One thing you can always do on Wikipedia that you can’t do when the Times prints a story about you that’s inaccurate or unfair: hit the “edit” button.
And the impact of mistakes that do make their way into Wikipedia is nothing compared to the impact of mistakes in major news outlets. Think weapons of mass destruction, or the CBS MemoGate scandal, or Jayson Blair, or Stephen Glass, or Janet Cook — to say nothing of the day-to-day errors and inaccuracies that we get paid to pick on here at CJR Daily.
The truth being obscured by the Seigenthaler case is that Wikipedia provides an outstanding model for producing a large body of useful content for almost zero cost — and because of the low cost, there’s no need to charge anyone for access to it.
At the end of the day, Wikipedia looks less like a reputation-munching monster, and more like the future of information in the Internet age.
Correction: The above has been changed to note that it there is no law firm backing the Web site soliciting members for a class action suit against Wikipedia.