May 22, 2022

Philip Roth is Not a Credible Source About His Own Book According to Wikipedia

The following report from ars technica is a perfect illustration about something I’ve been talking about with colleagues and during presentations for a long time.  I have also heard from authors over the years that what happened to Mr. Roth also happened to them. This infoDOCKET post from July, 2011 discusses a related issue that I had when adding material to Wikipedia.

What is the role of a primary source (in this case the the person being written about) in Wikipedia? In other words, would Mr. Roth have been better off creating a web page and posting his correction there and citing himself (or waiting for a secondary source to cite him) second vs. taking the time to participate in Wikipedia? Doesn’t Wikipedia want/need as much participation as possible?  Shouldn’t accurate information be the paramount goal?

From ars technica:

American novelist Philip Roth is so famous that there’s a Wikipedia page about his life and numerous Wikipedia articles about individual books he’s written. But by the sometimes strict editing process enforced at the collaboratively edited online encyclopedia, Roth himself was recently unable to fix what he calls a glaring error in the Wikipedia page about his novel The Human Stain.

Roth’s complaint was detailed by Roth himself today in “An open letter to Wikipedia” published by The New Yorker (a sister publication of Ars).


When Roth tried to give Wikipedia the true origins of the novel, he says he was told by a Wikipedia administrator on Aug. 26 “that I, Roth, was not a credible source.”

“I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work, but we require secondary sources,” were the exact words of the Wikipedia administrator, according to Roth.

Read the Complete Article

See Also: Wikipedia Editor Makes One Million Edits in Seven Years (via Mashable; April, 2012)
The report mentions the editor makes 385 edits per day.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.