One of the cool benefits of editing Wikipedia on a regular basis is coming across little tidbits of unreported news.
You’re probably familiar with the concept of biased edits on the “encyclopedia anyone can edit.” The mainstream media loves to express outrage when campaign staffers, PR agencies, or enamored spouses try to “doctor” Wikipedia articles, often leading to awkward hyperbole; last year, the Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes was happy to lend his name to this sort of sloppy thinking, accusing a staffer on Steve Novick’s campaign of inappropriately editing the biography of Novick’s opponent, Jeff Merkley. (In reality, the edit in question was mostly an improvement to the article, and was reviewed by an experienced and uninvolved Wikipedia editor within about 23 minutes. So the harm alleged by the Merkley campaign was pretty much nonexistent.)
Such stories miss the point in too many ways to mention. But self-interested Wikipedia editing is, of course, a reality. And for the regular Wikipedia editor, it can provide a fascinating insight into how the campaign staffers, PR agencies, and enamored spouses of the world are thinking.
This Wikipedia edit, which wandered across my computer screen earlier today, told me something interesting about Portland media — something that has gone unreported in other media outlets. But before I can properly explain it, here’s just a little more background.
Last May, the Portland Tribune (a former employer of mine) dropped from two weekly editions to one, and laid off a bunch of employees. A sensible response to tough times in the industry. But they were roundly criticized by other Portland publications for the spin they put on it: rather than characterizing it as the downsizing it was, the Tribune was quick to pat itself on the back for their new plan to update daily on their web site, a product they called a “daily online newspaper.”
But the punchline on the joke was that they called it “LocalNewsDaily.com” — rebranding their web site to combine the Trib and their numerous other community papers into a single web site, clearly advertising that they were producing some kind of innovative “online daily newspaper.” The name was a clear indication that they thought they had a truly innovative product — that they were somehow reinventing local news delivery by updating frequently on the web. (Apparently, they were using the domain as early as 2006, though they did not advertise the name that early.)
So, what’s the scoop today? Well, in contrast to the launch of LocalNewsDaily.com, which created quite a buzz on the local scene, the disappearance of the LocalNewsDaily.com brand name apparently escaped the notice of the local press.
But I spotted it, because of a tiny Wikipedia edit that caught my eye. Someone anonymous — and it’s hard to imagine it was anyone but a Trib employee — took the trouble to remove the references to LocalNewsDaily.com from the article on the Pamplin Media Group (the Trib’s parent company). And sure enough, when I punched LocalNewsDaily.com into my web browser, it redirected to a web site that’s now known as PortlandTribune.com.
Just like it used to, back in the day.