Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quote of the Day: Maurice Jarre

"One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head that only I can hear."
Although many news sources have attributed that quote to the French composer Maurice Jarre, it's actually the result of an Irish student's Wikipedia experiment. It worked.

Shortly after Oscar-winning composer Maurice Jarre died in March, 22-year-old Dublin student Shane Fitzgerald posted the quote on Wikipedia to see if journalists would check sources or use shortcuts.

Fitzgerald wrote an indignant editorial in last Thursday's edition of the Irish Times after the media failed to notice its mistakes.

"While I expected online blogs and maybe some smaller papers to use the quote," Fitzgerald wrote, "I did not think it would have a major impact. I was wrong. Quality newspapers in England, India, America and as far away as Australia had my words in their reports of Jarreā€™s death. I was shocked that highly respected newspapers would use material from Wikipedia without first sourcing and referencing it properly."

And of course, once one reputable paper uses the quote, it becomes legitimized. That and the fact that Fitzgerald kept reposting it worked against the Wikipedia editors, who purged it from the entry multiple times.

The Guardian was one paper that admitted its mistake in a piece by readers' editor Siobhain Butterworth, who wrote,
"Fitzgerald's timing could not have been better. He added the fake quote shortly after the composer died and just as writers were working on his obituaries. The Guardian commissioned an obituary writer on the morning of 30 March, giving him only a few hours to produce a substantial piece on Jarre's life for the following day's paper. He was not the only one taken in by the hoax - the quote was recycled in several other obituaries published in print and on the web. Fitzgerald told me that he'd looked for something (or someone) journalists would be under pressure to write about quickly. Jarre's death was 'the right example, at the right time', he said."

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