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Wikipedia reputation and “circular reporting”

Wikipedia is a major catalyzer of your online reputation, partly because of the "circular reporting" effect.

The impact of Wikipedia on reputation is pretty straightforward: Search engines are the main portals to the web, and Wikipedia always bubbles up on top of search results. This “search performance” happens thanks to the fact that Wikipedia is:

  1. Very well structured (good for browsing experience)
  2. Very rich in content
  3. Regularly updated.

Those 3 key characteristics also make Wikipedia a very attractive place for news writers. When the deadlines are tight (they usually are) and the writers are a bit clueless about a topic (that happens too), Wikipedia is a life saver. Wikipedia has been criticized – sometimes- for containing erroneous information, which led some news companies to refrain their writers from using Wikipedia. However, Wikipedia is not The Onion, its mission is to be neutral and verifiable, so Wikipedia remains highly reliable for news coverage purposes.

Wikipedia dominates search engines and is the secret little helper of the news industry. That alone gives Wikipedia a huge reputation power, but it doesn’t stop there. The Wikipedia/press dynamic eventually reaches a snake-bites-its-own-tail paradox, a phenomenon well-documented in Wikipedia under the term “circular reporting”:

Wikipedia is sometimes criticized for being used as a source of circular reporting, particularly a variant where an unsourced claim in a Wikipedia article is repeated by a reliable source, often without citing the article; which is then added as a source to the claim on Wikipedia.”

Basically, content on Wikipedia has a tendency to snowball in the press, thus becoming legit even when it may not have been in the first place. Wikipedia feeds the press which feeds Wikipedia which feeds the press, and so on…

That means if your Wikipedia page is not well groomed, your reputation may remain caught in a negative circular loop.