Wikipedia Tells Philip Roth He's Not A Credible Source On His Own Book
In order to try and maintain some level of credibility, Wikipedia has citation requirements for its entries. Unfortunately, those rules meant to ensure veracity wound up leading to unsubstantiated rumors about Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain being kept and the author being told he wasn’t a credible source on the backstory of his own book.
The mix-up started earlier this year when Roth checked the Wikipedia entry for his book The Human Stain. In the write-up, the text described the novel as “allegedly inspired by the life of the writer Anatole Broyard.” Since Roth knew his work was actually inspired by a very specific event in the life of his friend Melvin Tumin, he had someone contact the online encyclopedia. The response, received on August 25th, shocked him. Roth was allegedly told the entry would remain as it was until a secondary source was presented.
Unfortunately, since he hadn’t gone into detail on the origin of the character in the past, no secondary source was discovered. So, to correct the mistake, Roth decided to publish an open letter on the website of The New Yorker, detailing what happened with Wikipedia and the complete story of the book’s true inspiration. You can take a look at an excerpt below…
”Yet 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”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.”
Anytime you’re dealing with millions of people, rigid rules need to be made so thousands of loopholes aren’t exploited, but now and again, common sense needs to override those previsions. There’s no reason why Wikipedia couldn’t include a footnote saying the information had been verified by the author, In the long run, it would make the entry seem more credible anyway.