Do you think Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX-15) had his staff edit his own Wikipedia entry? So blatant: http://bit.ly/TSbMm
The answer is yes, and yes it is and I see what could be regarded as something of a double-standard here. First of all, Hinojosa’s congressional staff was quite up front about editing the page in the first place, when they contributed from a House-registered IP address in early 2008:
I am a staffer for Congressman Hinojosa in his Washington office and have found some mistakes. We have edited them and added the official biography from our website. If there are questions, please [sic]
Not unlike Twitter, you only get so many characters to explain your edit in the edit summary. This was not a bad way to go about it, although another editor left this note on the Talk page associated with the IP address for the Hinojosa staffer:
The edit was constructive in the sense that it did not delete unfavorable information from the page. At least, not all that unfavorable. For example, they changed
Finally in 2002 he was elected once again after running unopposed.
Finally in 2002 he was elected once again.
which it’s debatable whether this is even the right phrasing, but there is no question they removed (what may or may not be relevant) context.
However, I am not sure why adding material from his official bio is “constructive” when Wikipedia explicitly forbids plagiarism. Using information from the bio would be one thing, if there was at least a citation. Instead, are a few examples from what they added:
In Congress, Rubén Hinojosa is regarded as a champion for the disadvantaged and has distinguished himself as a strong advocate for education, housing and economic development. His primary goal in Congress has been to reduce the chronic unemployment rate in regions of the district.
As chairman of the Education Task Force for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressman Hinojosa ensures that federal education policy never loses sight of the youngest and fastest growing population in the country – Hispanic Americans.
On the House Financial Services Committee, Congressman Hinojosa is widely recognized as a leader on issues affecting the underserved, from banking to housing.
Favorable impressions of a subject can be attributed to independent observers, but it should never presented as a true-because-Wikipedia-said-so fact. Yet as Treviño noticed, it has largely remained intact in the year-and-change since. In fact, one editor did stop by a few days later to clean it up, but only slightly.
A partisan job? Probably not — that editor was a retired aviation engineer from Bristol, England. Nevertheless, it’s worth asking whether a Republican congressional staffer making these kind of mistakes would have received the same benefit of the doubt? If one takes into account the case of former Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.), whose staff was caught in mid-2006 making similar changes to his Wikipedia bio, this seems unlikely. Then again, the staff of former Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) was called out for doing something similar earlier that year, so the answer is not so simple.
The bottom line here is that Rep. Hinojosa’s page needs some major work to bring it back in line with Wikipedia standards. If nobody gets to it soon — and in fact the page has remained unedited for two months now — I may just have to get in there and fix it myself.