Wikipedia buries Sinbad for a day

by Paul Jay, CBC News Online

Mark Twain must have seen Wikipedia coming. To paraphrase Mr. Clemens, the online encyclopedia's reports of American comedian Sinbad's death appear to have been greatly exaggerated after another case of contributor tampering.

The entry in the biography of the 50-year-old comedian said he had died of a heart attack. The story was picked up by readers and spread through the online world.

Of course, Sinbad wasn't dead, he was just touring.

"Somebody vandalized the page," Wikipedia spokeswoman Sandra Ordonez said Friday. "Whoever did this was obviously a prankster. I don't think they did this because they thought he [was dead]."

It's another black eye for the online encyclopedia, which has been dogged by criticism of its community editing process, which allows users to post, edit and delete entries.

The most recent scandal to hit the site came a week ago after an editor named Essjay who had claimed in a New Yorker interview to be a university professor in religious studies with "a PhD in theology and a degree in canon law." was revealed to be a 24-year old from Kentucky named Ryan Jordan with no higher-education credentials. Jordan was subsequently fired from a recent posting at Wikia, an Internet company owned by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Wikipedia claims the vandalism to the Sinbad entry occurred on Wednesday, but in an interview with the Associated Press the comedian, whose real name is David Adkins, said he first heard the rumours last weekend. Or at least that's what we think he said.

"Saturday I rose from the dead and then died again," he said in an AP in a phone interview.

Now that's the Sinbad we know: totally incomprehensible, but very much alive.