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This word hit public attention when the Los Angeles Times wrote on 13 June: “Watch next week for the introduction of ‘wikitorials’ — an online feature that will empower you to rewrite Los Angeles Times editorials.” The experiment was based on the same software that is behind the Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia created by its readers in a process called open editing. At its best this produces excellent results, but all too often shows its contributors’ biases and limited knowledge. These and similar terms are based on the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning “quick”. The LA Times experiment — based around an editorial about the Iraq war — proved disastrous. Responses to it degenerated from sensible revisions into a sort of electronic mob rampage containing pornography and racial abuse and had to be pulled within 48 hours. Despite this, the paper plans to try again, with better controls, and it is likely that the word has a future.

The Wikitorial is one of several changes to the paper’s editorial page being made under the leadership of Kinsley, the political commentator and columnist who founded the online magazine Slate in 1996 and took over the Times’ opinion pages a year ago.

AP Worldstream, 20 June 2005

The LA Times’s approach to its wikitorial was timid and patronising at the same time, and that was the problem. The tiger will be stroked, but when it smells weakness it bites.

The Observer, 26 June 2005

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 09 Jul 2005