Little Green Footballs notes a curious trend in defacing Wikipedia entries emanating from within the walls of The New York Times, starting with the addition of “jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk” to the George W. Bush entry.
At little digging via the Wikipedia Scanner reveals that there are many other cases. Here’s an update to the entry for Condoleezza Rice…
The pattern seems to point to most of the drive-by edits coming from one specific IP address – 126.96.36.199.
Interestingly there are several edits from that address for specific New York Times employees. By frequency the most updated entry is the one for Nick Bilton, who was hired at the Times via Jeff Koyen (see correction below). Koyen had a nasty departure from the
Times New York Press in 2005 (see correction below) and edits from inside the Times building after he left suggest that Bilton may have been the author editing Wikipedia from the 188.8.131.52 address.
Only The New York Times knows for sure if that’s the case. We’ve sent an inquiry to the Times and will report their response…
Correction: Jeff Koyen sends this:
I was editor-in-chief of New York PRESS, and hired Nick Bilton as the art director in 2003. He left in 2004 to join the Times; I eventually left the Press over an unrelated matter.
I occasionally write for the Times travel section as a freelancer, a gig I secured through Sam Sifton, NYT’s Culture Editor and my former editor at New York Press.
As for my Wiki entry: I don’t know who created it, edits it and occasionally defaces it. I’ve personally made just one edit to it since its creation — when I relaunched my writing project, 100words.com, at a new URL.
I thought I had it right from the various Wikipedia edits, but they were pretty hard to understand since they were poorly written. I’m glad to be able to clarify the history and thank Jeff for alerting me to the facts.
Update 2: The New York Times responds.
Thank you for writing. I passed your message to Craig Whitney, an assistant managing editor at The Times. He said that “The Times deplores the actions, whoever was responsible” for the edits on Wikipedia. But, finding out who is responsible, Mr. Whitney said, is unlikely.
“The New York Times maintains one external IP address for all Web communications (and one external telephone number for all telephone communications). That IP address appeared on communications to Wikipedia at the dates and times of interventions on the Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush entries, both in 2005. Our technology experts, asked if we could track down those responsible, told us that it is probably impossible and is certainly not feasible, at a large newspaper that moved into a new building this summer, one in which there has been much staff and equipment turnover since 2005, to determine from the available data which terminals were used by those who made those entries then, let alone who was using the terminals at the time.”
If we get any more information we will provide it to you.
Office of the Public Editor
The New York Times
So there you have it, the Times has effectively said “your guess is as good as ours.” In the comment section at Ace of Spades, Bilton has denied responsibility.