By: Joe Strupp
Two days after launching its highly-touted wikitorials, the Los Angeles Times has shut down the feature. It allowed readers to revise some of the paper’s editorials on the Web, but had been infiltrated by online vandals.
?Unfortunately, we have had to remove this feature, at least temporarily, because a few readers were flooding the site with inappropriate material,? a note posted Sunday on the Web page read. ?Thanks and apologies to the thousands of people who logged on in the right spirit.?
The note was placed under a headline that read, ?Where is the Wikitorial.?
The wikitorials began with a mix of problems and popularity Friday when the paper posted an editorial about the Iraq War and invited readers to revise it as part of the controversial new feature. Hundreds of people took part in the effort Friday, according to Editorial and Opinion Editor Michael Kinsley, who told E&P Friday, “I’m loving it. I was worried that no one would come.”
But, problems also occurred as one user managed to change the headline on several pages to read “Fuck USA,” Kinsley said. Editors managed to remove the offensive headline, which went up at about 2 p.m. EDT, but lost some other input from readers at the same time.
Then, a user managed to split the editorial itself into two separate editorials, while another person made changes to the page that, as Kinsley described, “cleaned it up a little.” He later determined that the “clean up” person was one of the Wikipedia editors.
“It’s quite a strange thing,” Kinsley said of the mischief on Friday. He made no indication at that time that the feature would be stopped, although he admitted that even he was having trouble understanding exactly how it would work. “I am not sure,? he told E&P Friday.
Neither Kinsley nor Editorial Page Editor Andres Martinez could be reached for comment Sunday. Calls to Times media relations executives have yet to be returned.