Scrooged: Wikipedia Editors Neglect Christmas-Related Articles

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Although corporate media who praise Wikipedia as a counter to “fake news” have simultaneously criticized it for perceived gaps in coverage on gender and race, the site also shows a gap in its coverage of Christmas, the most widely-celebrated holiday on Earth other than New Year’s Day. In contrast to the generally under-developed nature of the site’s Christmas content, articles covering video games and the show South Park are generally more developed.

Exemplifying the poor state of Wikipedia articles relating to Christmas is how the “today’s featured article” slot on the site’s front page has rarely displayed a Christmas-related article even on Christmas Day.

People looking at Wikipedia’s front page on Christmas Day will likely find a great deal of information about the Tamil-language film Anbe Sivam, which bombed at the Indian box office before becoming a cult classic, according to the film’s page on the site. Depending on a reader’s time zone, they may instead be reading about a Medieval castle in Wales or a European soccer match. These are the articles Wikipedia’s editors have placed in the front page’s “today’s featured article” slot over the Christmas holiday.

While such articles may seem an unusual choice, few holiday-appropriate pages are an option for the slot. “Featured” articles are those articles editors have raised to the highest standard of quality on Wikipedia as determined by a group of fellow editors. They are the product of intense and long-time efforts by contributors to build the pages up with the strongest sourcing, the best prose, and most comprehensive coverage possible by Wikipedia standards. As such, they provide a good window into the priorities of the site’s community and quality content about Christmas is evidently not one of them.

In past years, Wikipedia’s front page has hosted Christmas-related content in its “today’s featured article” slot. The article on Jesus Christ appeared in the Christmas Day slot in 2013 and the next year an article about a painting of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus, appeared. However, the article on Nativity scenes generally and the actual article on the birth of Christ specifically could not appear in the slot as neither have been raised to “featured” quality. The former has “good article” status, one step below “featured” and involving a less rigorous process, while the latter is given a “B-class” ranking by several “WikiProjects” that coordinate on specific topics. The article on Christmas itself similarly has a “B” ranking.

Since the slot for “today’s featured article” was created, the Christmas Day slot has rarely included a page related to the holiday at all and only occasionally includes an entry with religious significance. In 2018, the classic story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens became one of the few expressly Christmas-related articles to appear on the front page, particularly in the slot for Christmas Day. Previously in 2015, the article on a Christmas episode of 1960’s sitcom Bewitched appeared in the Christmas Day slot. Both were beaten to the slot by an article on a 1994 winter storm that hit New York City on Christmas day.

One Christmas-related page that appeared in the featured article slot prior to either A Christmas Carol or the Bewitched episode, was an article on a Christmas episode of the adult animated comedy show South Park, which featured a “singing poo” character. It appeared on the front page in 2012. While it appeared in the featured article slot a week before Christmas, some editors attempted to have the page displayed on Christmas Day, with an editor nominating it for the slot at the time mockingly calling it “Heart-warming Christmas fare, with music and dancing.”

Unlike Christmas articles, South Park articles are more developed and have made more front-page appearances. A “WikiProject” devoted to developing Wikipedia content about South Park identifies nine articles of over 600 concerning the show with “featured” status and eight of them have appeared on the front page. By contrast, another group focused on developing Christmas content on the site identifies only three featured articles of roughly 900 including the South Park episode, though not the Bewitched episode. The group itself is essentially inactive, still including on its “to-do” list a 2008 project to get Christmas-related articles in the less prominent “Did you know” slot on the front page.

Among the most active WikiProjects on Wikipedia is the one about video games. The group identifies hundreds of featured articles about video games with most having appeared on the front page in the “today’s featured article” slot. Well over a thousand articles about video games have been raised to the slightly lower “good article” status. Despite having roughly 37,000 articles in its purview, more video game articles have been raised to these quality standards than Christmas-related articles. Articles related to pornography have even been raised to the site’s “good article” standards several times more than Christmas-related articles with roughly the same raised to “featured” status, based on numbers from a group focused on porn-related Wikipedia content.

Rather than appearing in the most prominent slot for “featured” articles, Christmas pages have routinely appeared in the “Did you know” section of Wikipedia’s front page. This year several articles appear there during the Christmas holiday, though sometimes using mere connections, such as the article on the Plaza Hotel in New York City referencing its appearance in the movie Home Alone 2 set during Christmastime. Last year, an article about a bird appeared in the section on Christmas due to “Christmas” being included in its name. During the Christmas WikiProject’s effort to get Christmas articles in the “Did you know” section, a similar pattern occurred. In every case, many articles unrelated to Christmas were also present.

However, the standards applied to pages that appear in the “Did you know” section of the front page are much lower, requiring only a new moderate-sized article or a heavily expanded one that meets certain bare criteria for policy-compliance. This has made the section a popular target for activist editors and paid campaigns. A Black Lives Matter group got several articles advancing their agenda to appear in the section, including articles attacking President Donald Trump. Prior to that, an effort to create content about Gibraltar flooded the section with Gibraltar-related pages. It was spearheaded by a board member for a Wikipedia chapter organization, who was also being paid by Gibraltar’s government.

While the time and effort of creating a “featured” article makes it less suitable for such efforts, there have still been cases where editors were able to exploit the “today’s featured article” section for activist purposes. For this year’s “Juneteenth” holiday, which commemorates when the last slaves in Confederate territory during the American Civil War purportedly learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, an article about President George Washington and slavery was displayed in the “today’s featured article” section. Juneteenth has not officially been made a national holiday in the United States, though the campaign for official recognition has increased this year under pressure from the Black Lives Matter movement.

Gaps in Wikipedia’s Christmas coverage relative to other subjects do not arouse much concern in the press. Instead, media focus on claims about a “gender gap” in contributors and content, which has prompted activist campaigns to generate more content about women. A study published this month found such campaigns have over-corrected and now advance a bias towards women, a reversal the study’s authors argue could occur elsewhere. Similar campaigns have focused on a “racial gap” on Wikipedia and Wikipedia’s owners have even endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement and pledged to address “equity” issues on the site, partly by imposing a “code of conduct” advancing left-wing identity politics.

Part of the neglect for Christmas content could be a more hostile attitude towards religion on Wikipedia. Earlier this year, Wikipedia banned profile pages from expressing support for traditional marriage between a man and a woman, even when expressing it as merely a matter of personal belief, in a decision condemned by numerous family and Christian organizations. One of the site’s administrators resigned over the decision, criticizing editors as making inflammatory attacks during the discussion on those holding views held by most major faiths and stating Wikipedia had “de-facto taken sides in the culture wars.” Wikipedia has indeed been found by numerous studies and analyses to have a left-wing bias, which has been criticized by the site’s own co-founder.

T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.


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