wikipedia.jpgGawker 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
State: Ca.
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.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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  • tomprete

    What a crappy job.

  • Sarah Fidelibus

    I’m still hung up on “memoir/investigation.” What the…?

  • bloomsm

    Isn’t this unethical? Creating source material to support an investigation? A feedback loop. Like ol’ WR Hearst said “you give me the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

  • Molly Samuel

    Not just a Wikipedia entry, a website, too, right? If it was just the website, I wonder if it would be less suspicious. Books have websites, so maybe this article could. It does seem like a stretch. The job posting doesn’t make that much sense. I wonder if it’s intentionally vague. I guess, generally, the whole thing is baffling (as is this comment, at this point).

  • Rose

    $15 an hour for a website? Fuck you, lady.

  • Brock Keeling

    Ha! I think I love you, Rose.

  • Gregory Kohs

    This looks like (it was) a job for…


    If only someone, somewhere, knew how to find the guy behind MyWikiBiz, Katy’s problems could have been solved. But (as Rose notes above), for $15 an hour, she’s loony tunes.

  • Gregory Kohs

    Oh, dear… Katy’s whole operation is so terribly obvious:

  • Katy Butler

    Dear Eve, congratulations on your work editing “Good Cop, Bad Daughter” — a terrific book!

    For the record, I want to correct misimpressions that may have been inadvertently left by this post. My research for the award-winning NY Times article, “What Broke My Father’s Heart,” took six months, involved numerous peer-reviewed studies from journals like the New England Journal of Medicine, and did not rely on Wikipedia at any time in any way. Research was completed long before the New York Times accepted the piece for publication. As I am sure you are aware, Wikipedia is not considered a valid research source by the fact-checking department of the New York Times, which fact-checks all its articles routinely, including mine. Nobody was ever asked or expected to manufacture sources or backup — none of that was needed nor would it have passed muster at the NY Times. Perhaps new media can be as clueless and as prone to jumping to far fetched conclusions about the inner workings of old media — as vice versa.
    The article won the “Science in Society” award from the National Association of Science Writers and was the fourth most accessed NY Times magazine story of 2010. It was expanded into a 2013 book, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” which was named a NY Times Notable Book of the Year, and “best first book” in the Books for a Better Life awards. It is currently (Sept 2014) a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in nonfiction. As an older writer with minimal experience in social media, I was seeking help with updating a single page of my website and promoting what I thought was an important national issue. As a working freelancer on a budget, I offered an unfortunately minimal hourly rate to a college student. At the time, many posts asked students to perform similar work as unpaid internships, and that was not a route I was comfortable taking. No harm was intended, and I’m glad the article was seen by many for what it was – my own thorough and original research.