If it’s not already, the Wikipedia page on Hurricane Sandy will become the most widely viewed internet resource on the storm. And as PopSci discovered, it’s being largely controlled by a 56-year-old, unemployed Floridian who doesn’t believe in rising global temperatures.
Ken Mampel, a one-time disaster reporter by trade, began editing the page on October 25 and has since spent countless sleepless nights patrolling for accuracy, honest reporting, and any mention of global warming’s role in the storm, which he promptly deletes. Theoretically, no one Wikipedia editor carries any more weight than another, but Ken currently has twice the number of edits as the next most active contributor. Still, editors with conflicting views have resigned themselves to humouring people like Ken, assuming he’ll eventually give up his crusade against global warming references:
One contributor wrote: “With the article being edited heavily with updates at the moment, many of whom are in the storm, my view is that it can wait for a day or two.” Another said, “It sounds more like, ‘We’ll keep all mention of global warming out of the discussion until after nobody’s interested in this storm any more.’” This isn’t so much “waiting for new information to come in.” This is “waiting for majority rule to overcome the will of the few”. The few are what kept global warming off that page for so long.
Ken Mampel really thinks he is improving that page by eliminating an unclear passage about climate change, so that’s a “good faith” edit. Which, for Wikipedians, means the system is working. But what about for those 500,000 readers who didn’t get the full story?
Ken may be keeping “the full story” off the page now, but the nature of Wikipedia won’t keep it that way. As a seasoned contributor, Ken knows the politics of Wikipedia’s editing community, and it’s a group he has no desire to alienate:
Mampel doesn’t want to risk being banned; he’s very concerned about being a good guy in the contributor community. Whenever anyone commented with any issue about his work, he immediately apologised and offered to fix it… But for days, the internet’s most authoritative article on a major tropical storm system in 2012 was written by a man with no meteorological training who thinks climate change is unproven and fought to remove any mention of it. [PopSci]