Gawker points us in the direction of a rather odd job posting on the Berkeley J-School job board (whoops, looks like it’s been removed!).
Posted by local freelancer and Pulitzer-nominated former Chronicle and Guardian reporter Katy Butler, the gig includes creation of “a wikipedia entry, with links, to support an upcoming New York Times Sunday memoir/investigation questioning life-extending cardiac surgery in the very old and frail.”
As Gawker notes, asking someone to “write a Wikipedia entry that will appear to support the story’s findings, just in time for publication of said story” seems like a kind of strange! But perhaps we are just paranoid?
The only contact information on Butler’s website is a defunct email address and an unanswered phone number that did not have voicemail, so our efforts to reach Butler were not successful.
But Gawker commenters already have plenty to say, noting that “There are apparently thousands of Wikipedia nerds who do nothing but scour the site daily to get rid of topics they don’t believe are important enough be there. All of them will have read about this woman’s ad by now and are just rarin’ to delete anything that mentions her.” And there certainly is an argument to be made that Butler’s request is indeed not up to Wikipedia’s content standards!
So, what do you think: is this an example of old media cluelessness, or something sketchier?
One colleague to whom we spoke, one who’s seen his share of old media embarrassments, isn’t sure. “It seems to be an odd blend of earnestly servicey while at the same time clearly weighted toward one side of the issue” he says in response to the ad. “I can certainly understand paying someone else to promote one’s work…the thing that struck me (is that) Wikipedia demands sources like the Times for attribution, but here’s someone asking for a wikipedia entry where their story will end up being the source.”
Here’s the ad (blessedly, Gawker copied it before it was taken down), tell us what you think:
Katy Butler (freelance writer, Mill Valley)
Web design, promotion, & research wikipedia entry for New York Times magazine article
Category: New Media
Location: Mill Valley
Salary: $15 per hour
Duration of Position: June 12-20 2010
Work Schedule: Unknown
Description: Design a website and create a wikipedia entry, with links, to support an upcoming New York Times Sunday memoir/investigation questioning life-extending cardiac surgery in the very old and frail. Research resources for others attempting to coordinate medical care for elderly parents, and those attempting to have cardiac devices turned off near the end of life, and link to website. Promote the upcoming story to organizations concerned with these issues, and encourage them to read it and link to it.
Experience: Have a track record of extreme competence in producing a website fast with 3 functioning websites you have designed to show me. At least 2 years experience in internet-based research, either on a newspaper or magazine or in a J-school. Some promotion experience helpful, or 2 years phone-based reporting experience.