Look, everyone knows journalists use Wikipedia. As a starting point for research, it’s a very handy tool – and a great way of finding leads on a subject. However, it’s still a big no-no in any newsroom I’ve worked in to be Thomas Aquinas’s “man of one book,” using Wikipedia – a peer-edited encyclopaedia that anyone can manipulate – as a credible single source for a story. And even more of a faux pas to proudly quote it.
However, it appears we’re through the looking glass this weekend, as one of the biggest stories doing the rounds in the US and UK on the entertainment circuit is that Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street has the most instances of the F-word of any movie ever made.
The source of this story - century-old trustworthy trade magazine of the US entertainment business, Variety. And their source… Wikipedia.
To clarify, this isn’t an expose of any cover-up at Variety – their report clearly states: “According to Wikipedia, the word “f*ck” is used 506 times over “The Wolf of Wall Street’s” 180-minute running time.” No, this is merely surprise that Variety, and the rest of the world’s media are happy to take this list as gospel.
Yes, the Wiki list does have sources, some of which you can click through and check out, others that lie behind mystifying paywalls. But the point is not even whether or not the information presented is correct; but more, who compiled it, should we trust them and what could they have missed out? (For a start, all reports omit the beautifully titled documentary "F*ck", which the list claims has almost double the instances of the F-word to The Wolf of Wall Street.)
Equally worrying is the number of mainstream publications who chose to runs this story as “Variety reports”, omitting the Wiki source altogether. Now this might just be an oversight, lazy journalism, but in some cases is perhaps an attempt to clean the story up and give it a more credible start.
Maybe it’s just a slow news day, but this does feel like a worrying trend...
However, for those who feel cheated that you arrived on this page and got a rant rather than just a list of sweary films – here’s a link to the Wikipedia list.
Tim Glanfield is editor of RadioTimes.com & digital products