Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Re: Paying College Athletes

PBS Frontline did an excellent piece this week called "Money and March Madness":

In Money and March Madness, FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell Bergman takes a hard look at the economics of the annual NCAA tournament -- a cash cow for amateur athletics that generates enormous dollars for everyone except the players themselves, raising basic questions of fairness that are now leading a handful of influential figures to challenge the way the NCAA operate.

You can watch it for free here, and I recommend that you do. It does a great job addressing some often overlooked aspects of the college sports business: one-year scholarships, low graduation rates, the NCAA and member institutions profiting off of player likenesses long after those players have left the school.

My only complaint with this Frontline program is that it equates "college sports" with major Division I men's basketball and football. College athletic programs that generate big bucks are the exception, not the norm. Even many Division I football and men's basketball programs aren't profitable. This fact doesn't change any of the problems mentioned above, but it is something that must be acknowledged whenever one discusses the possibility of paying student-athletes.

Last week I wrote an article on this topic for Midwest Sports Fans. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Elite Eight Picks

View my bracket here. | View contest results here

I missed twice yesterday. In the case of Butler, I'm glad I did. Here are my picks for Sunday (and here are Kevin's):

1 Kansas over 11 VCU (re-pick)
Since all of my Final Four picks have lost, both of my picks today are re-picks. I would love nothing more than to see VCU win this game. And, if the Rams play like they did against Purdue, they could. But no team in this tournament is playing as well as Kansas, and no team in this tournament is as deep as Kansas. So I'll go with the Jayhawks.

2 North Carolina over 4 Kentucky (re-pick)
Both teams are playing well right now; both teams have a lot of talent. I give a slight edge to the Tar Heels and their front line.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Elite Eight Picks

View my bracket here. | View contest results here

I went actually went 3 for 4 yesterday. Not bad. I'm up to 570 points when accounting for re-pick points. Here are my picks for Saturday's games (and here are Kevin's):

2 Florida over 8 Butler
I would love to see Butler win this one, and I think they have a good shot. But Florida is my one Final Four pick that is still alive, so I'll stick with the Gators.

5 Arizona over 3 Connecticut (re-pick)
Since UConn beat San Diego State, I have to re-pick. At this point, it would be unwise to pick against Kemba Walker. But it would be more unwise to pick against Derrick Williams. And I have more faith in Williams's supporting cast than I do Walker's. I think Arizona wins this one.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Sister Was on Television

Fox 5 in Atlanta spent the morning at Shiloh Middle School, where my sister Whitney teaches.

Here, Whitney conducts the orchestra and talks about the school's orchestra program:

In this segment, Fox 5's Buck Langford talks to Whitney about the recycling club:

High 5 Field Trip: Shiloh Middle School: MyFoxATLANTA.com

Friday Sweet 16 Picks

View my bracket here. | View contest results here

I went 2 for 4 yesterday, but one of those 2 was a re-pick. Somehow I'm still in the top half of ESPN's Tournament Challenge. I'm guessing I won't be after tonight.

Anyway, here are my picks for Thursday's Sweet 16 games:

1 Ohio State over 4 Kentucky
Ohio State looks like the best team in this tournament. Kentucky has played well, but I don't think they can beat the Buckeyes.

2 North Carolina over 11 Marquette
I'd love to see Buzz Williams and Marquette win this, and I think they'll keep it close. But I'm going to stick with my original pick here.

1 Kansas over 12 Richmond
Again, I'd love to see the Spiders prevail (especially since they're responsible for knocking out Vanderbilt, and there's more honor in losing to a team that advances to the Elite Eight). But it's hard to see anyone other than Ohio State beating Kansas at this point.

11 VCU over 10 Florida State (re-pick)
Both of these teams have been impressive, and I hate to pick one over the other. But I'm going to say that VCU has been slightly more impressive and pick the Rams to move on. (I originally had Notre Dame in this one. Contest rules allow me to pick a replacement team for half the points.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thursday Sweet 16 Picks

View my bracket here. | View contest results here

Despite losing some key games on Sunday, I'm pleased to have a bracket that is slightly above average among the millions submitted to ESPN's Tournament Challenge. And I came out of the weekend with a 30-point lead over Kevin in our two-man contest. I'm up 410-380, but my pick for national champion (and I'm too embarrassed to write who that was) has already been eliminated.

Anyway, here are my picks for Thursday's Sweet 16 games:

5 Arizona over 1 Duke (re-pick)
I'd originally picked Texas in this spot, but the Longhorns lost a close one to Arizona. So I'll just swap Texas for Arizona, mostly because I've been so impressed with Derrick Williams so far. (Contest rules allow me to pick a replacement team for half the points.)

2 San Diego State over 3 Connecticut
I really thought UConn would hit a wall after playing five games in five days in the Big East Tournament, but Kemba Walker has been playing out of his mind and the Huskies look as good as anyone. I'll stick with San Diego State, who could give UConn some problems in the paint, but I'm not too confident.

4 Wisconsin over 8 Butler
My heart says Butler (the school where my mother earned her Master's degree), but my brain says Wisconsin. The Badgers' early exit in the Big Ten Tournament made people forget just how good they are. (Scoring 33 points in a 40-minute game will do that.)

2 Florida over 3 BYU
I don't want to underestimate The Jimmer, but Florida is sneaky good. I had to watch the Gators thrice beat Vanderbilt and have decided that they have more talent than BYU can handle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lake County Is First Boys Team With a Female Coach to Win a State Title

First, congratulations to the Lake County Falcons, who this weekend won the Tennessee Class A Boys Basketball State Championship. The Falcons' victory was particularly notable because their coach, Dawn Barger, became the first woman to coach a boys basketball team to a state title.

I hesitate to make a big deal about Barger's groundbreaking victory. As a high school swimmer, my boys team had a female coach, Jan Hendricks. (She wore a Viking helmet during big meets. It was awesome.) To my knowledge, no one on the team ever thought that having a woman as a coach was an issue or was even particularly novel. When you're swimmming 10 100s on 1:15 at 5:30 in the morning before school, the sex of the coach is immaterial. Apparently, Lake County's basketball players feel the same way:

"I feel it doesn't matter whether you're male or female because a coach is a coach and she pushes us as hard as any man could," said Lake County's B.J Gauldin, a 6-foot-7 post player who had 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots. "She showed us how to run better, getting up and down the court and helped us with our shots. She worked with us just like any other person would."

Some women simply have a gift for teaching and coaching boys, just as some men have a gift for teaching and coaching girls. I hope that more women will get opportunities to use that gift.

Photo by Josh Anderson, Associated Press

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sunday Picks

View my bracket here. | View contest results here | Kevin's Third Round Picks

There comes a point each March when I concede defeat in any bracket contests I may be involved in, stop worrying about my picks, and allow myself to relax and appreciate the great stories and teams that make the NCAA Tournament so great. I've almost reached that point this year.

One quick note before getting to my picks for Sunday's games: Friday on this blog I picked VCU to beat Georgetown. Today I noticed that, on my official bracket, I picked Georgetown over VCU. VCU beat Georgetown (handily) last night, so I won't be getting those ten points.

2 North Carolina over 7 Washington
Washington has been winning a lot of close games lately, but I think the Huskies' run stops here. Should be a good game.

1 Ohio State over 8 George Mason
I'd love to see the Patriots win this one, but Ohio State is the best team in this tournament.

11 Marquette over 3 Syracuse (re-pick)
I originally had Xavier winning this game. Since the Musketeers are gone, I'm going to take a chance on Marquette. (Contest rules allow me to pick a replacement team for half the points.) Strange things happen when conference foes meet in the Dance.

1 Duke over 8 Michigan
Kyrie Irving was impressive Friday, albeit against Hampton. If Irving looks that good against the Wolverines, I'll regret not picking Duke to go to the Final Four.

4 Texas over 5 Arizona
Both teams struggled with inferior opponents in their opening games. I give Texas the edge here because the Horns have more overall talent. The Wildcats, however, will have the best player on the floor in Derrick Williams.

3 Purdue over 11 VCU
JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore won't allow Purdue to lose this game.

1 Kansas over 9 Illinois
Illinois looked great Friday against UNLV. They'll need to be perfect to beat Kansas.

2 Notre Dame over 10 Florida State
We had a Chris Singleton sighting Friday. I'm sticking with the Irish, but this one could get interesting.

Saturday's Picks

View my bracket here. | View contest results here.

I started strong, going 13-3 on Thursday, but I went 10-6 yesterday and now trail Kevin 240-220 in our contest (he explains the difference between ESPN's scoring and our scoring). Thus far, I would have been better off picking the top seeds to win every game. The good news for today is that all of my original picks to win today's games are still alive. (That won't be the case tomorrow.) Here are my picks for today:

4 Kentucky over 5 West Virginia
I'm starting to doubt this one, but Kentucky played well down the stretch and I think they'll rebound from a let down against Princeton. West Virginia has a really strong team and tends to overachieve in March, so I could be in trouble.

2 San Diego State over 7 Temple
The Aztecs got their first ever NCAA Tournament win on Thursday. They'll get their second today.

3 Connecticut over 6 Cincinnati
UConn showed no signs of fatigue in its route of Bucknell. If this game is in doubt late, I expect Kemba to take over and give the Huskies the win.

13 Morehead State over 12 Richmond
I originally had Morehead beating Vanderbilt in this game, such was my lack of faith in my Commodores (whom I felt obliged to pick in their first game against Richmond). Richmond is the better team, but Morehead proved Thursday that they're more than just Kenneth Faried, and I think they'll win this one to advance to the Sweet 16.

2 Florida over 7 UCLA
I still like Florida to go far this year, and UCLA (whom I didn't pick to be here) has a history of losing to the Gators in March.

1 Pittsburgh over 8 Butler
I'd love to see Butler win this one, and the Bulldogs are capable of doing so, but I don't think they will.

11 Gonzaga over 3 BYU
I think this is where the absence of Brandon Davies catches up with the Cougars.

4 Wisconsin over 5 Kansas State
Wisconsin was impressive in its win over Belmont. I'm sticking with the Badgers.

Kneeling in the End Zone Presents God's Bracket 2011, Womens' Edition

And here's a rundown of the teams from religiously affiliated schools in this year's NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament.

Roman Catholic

  • Notre Dame (#2, Dayton)

  • St. John's (#9, Spokane)

  • Xavier (#2, Spokane)

  • Georgetown (#5, Philadephia)

  • Gonzaga (#11, Spokane)

  • DePaul (#3, Philadelphia)

  • Dayton (#11, Philadelphia)

  • St. Francis (PA) (#13, Philadelphia)


  • Baylor (#1, Dallas)

  • Samford (#14, Dallas)

  • Gardner-Webb (#14, Dayton)

United Methodist

  • Duke (#2, Philadelphia)


  • Princeton (#12, Philadelphia)

Note: While not listed, Vanderbilt (#10, Spokane) has historical ties to The United Methodist Church; Marist (#10, Philadelphia) has historical ties to the Roman Catholic Church; and the Stetson (#16, Dayton) until recently had ties to the Florida Baptist Convention.

See Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports for an appendix with a complete list of religiously affiliated Division I schools.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Friday Picks

View my bracket here. | View contest results here.

Here are Kevin's picks for the first second round games, and here are my picks for Friday's games.

8 George Mason over 9 Villanova
Nova has talent, but they played so poorly in the final month of the season that I'm not convinced they belong in this tournament. Mason won an even-stronger-than-usual CAA and hasn't had a real let down since Christmas.

1 Ohio State over 16 Texas-San Antonio
UTSA dominated its First Four game, but the Roadrunners won't survive the poisonous nuts.

2 North Carolina over 15 Long Island

6 Xavier over 11 Marquette

Xavier finds its way to the Sweet 16 just about every year, so I'm not going to pick against the Musketeers in the first round.

10 Georgia over 7 Washington
Not sure why I picked Georgia here. I probably should have gone with Washington. Too late now. Both of these teams have some incredible athletes, and both fell short of pre-season expectations. Washington made a nice run in the Pac 10 Tournament, but teams that overachieve in conference tournaments tend to underachieve in the NCAA Tournament. I guess that's a reason to pick Georgia.

3 Syracuse over 14 Indiana State
I'd really like to pick the Sycamores here, but I can't, in good faith, pick any team that lost twice to Evansville to upset a 3 seed.

4 Texas over 13 Oakland
I would have picked Oakland over any other 4 seed, but when Texas plays well, they're among the best teams in the country.

9 Tennessee over 8 Michigan
If the Volunteers aren't too distracted by speculation about coach Bruce Pearl's future, they should take care of the Wolverines.

12 Memphis over 5 Arizona
I can't think of any good reason to pick Memphis here. The Tigers haven't looked good all season, not even in the games they've won. But I think they have enough talent (albeit young talent) to pull the upset.

1 Duke over 16 Hampton

2 Notre Dame over 15 Akron
No amount of encouraging text messages from LeBron James will save the Zips from elimination at the hands of Notre Dame. (Why the Selection Committee didn't schedule the Fighting Irish on St. Patrick's Day is beyond me.)

7 Texas A&M over 10 Florida State
Chris Singleton, the Seminoles' leading scorer and rebounder, is questionable for Friday's game. Even with Singleton healthy, I think Texas A&M is probably a better team than Florida State.

1 Kansas over 16 Boston University
I would like nothing more than for the Terriers to upset top-seeded Kansas, but I have more confidence that purple-skinned space aliens will colonize eastern Europe this weekend than that Boston U. will win this game.

3 Purdue over 14 St. Peter's
My faith in the Boilermakers is waning, but I fully expect them to take care of the Peacocks.

8 UNLV over 9 Illinois
With apologies to my extended family in the Land of Lincoln, Illinois may be the worst at-large team in this tournament.

11 VCU over 6 Georgetown
It all comes down to Chris Wright's left hand, doesn't it?

Thursday Picks

View my bracket here. | View contest results here.

I'm 1-3 in NCAA Tournament picks so far. The UTSA Roadrunners came through for me. No one else did. Fortunately, no points were on the line for the First Four. Anyway, here are Kevin's picks for the first second round games. I'll have to run through my Thursday picks quickly because I have to leave for work in an hour. (I'll only be working a half day because I took vacation time to watch this afternoon's games.)

5 West Virginia over 12 Clemson
Clemson looked impressive in its First Four game, winning its first NCAA Tournament game in ages. Now the Tigers have to play West Virginia, a team one year removed from the Final Four, on 36 hours' rest. I expect the Mountaineers to move on.

4 Kentucky over 13 Princeton
It's nice to see Princeton return to the Dance, but their stay will be short. After struggling on the road for much of the season, Kentucky closed strong and will be a tough out in this tournament.

7 Temple over 10 Penn State
I have very little confidence in this pick, but only in the NCAA Tournament will two teams from Pennsylvania face off in Tucson, Arizona.

2 San Diego State over 15 Northern Colorado

3 Connecticut over 14 Bucknell
Don't be surprised if Bucknell pulls the upset.

6 Cincinnati over 11 Missouri
I have no faith in Missouri to win a big game away from Columbia.

13 Morehead State over 4 Louisville
I'm putting a lot of faith in Morehead's Kenneth Faried, who will be the best player on the floor.

5 Vanderbilt over 12 Richmond
I feel obliged to pick the Commodores to survive at least one round, since Vanderbilt granted me a degree. But I'm not optimistic. The Spiders are much better than their seed suggests (and they have one of the great nicknames in college sports).

8 Butler over 9 Old Dominion
This was a tough call. I went with tournament experience (though this is the same ODU team that upset Notre Dame in the first round last year). Also, my mom earned her master's degree from Butler, so I like to pick them to win at least one game.

1 Pittsburgh over 16 UNC-Ashevi but lle

2 Florida over 15 UC Santa Barbara

4 Wisconsin over 13 Belmont
My first instinct was to pick Belmont. Then every single analyst for CBS, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated picked Belmont. I hate trendy picks, so I'm going with Wisconsin. The Badgers have a very good team, albeit one that scored 33 points against Penn State last weekend.

10 Michigan State over 7 UCLA
Frankly, I don't think Michigan State deserves to be in this tournament, but I'm not picking against Tom Izzo in March.

11 Gonzaga over 6 St. John's
The Zags have been playing well down the stretch and the Johnnies are without leading rebounder D.J. Kennedy.

12 Utah State over 5 Kansas State
Tough call, but I have faith in Stew Morrill and think this is the year when the Aggies finally get over the hump.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kneeling in the End Zone Presents God's Bracket 2011, Mens' Edition

Here is my annual look at the religiously affiliated schools in the NCAA Tournament.

Roman Catholic

  • Notre Dame (#2, Southwest)

  • St. John's (#6, Southeast)

  • Georgetown (#6, Southwest)

  • Xavier (#6, East)

  • Marquette (#11, East)

  • Gonzaga (#11, Southeast)

  • St. Peter's (#14, Southwest)

  • Villanova (#9, East)

As usual, the Archdiocese of Hoops is well represented. The Society of Jesus did especially well, placing five schools in this year's field. Notre Dame boasts a senior-led team and an impressive 14 wins over NCAA Tournament teams. A Final Four run by the Irish could lead to the canonization of Mike Brey as one of the game's elite coaches. Georgetown hasn't won since Chris Wright went down with a bad hand. But Wright will be back for the Tournament. St. John's isn't as fortunate. Leading rebounder D.J. Kennedy is out for the Johnnies' opening game against their Jesuit brothers from Gonzaga. The St. Peter's Peacocks will look to honor their namesake, the first Bishop of Rome, by upsetting a Purdue team that is playing without recently suspended guard Kelsey Barlow.

United Methodist

  • Duke (#1, West)

  • Syracuse (#3, East)

  • Wofford (#14, Southeast)

  • Boston University (#16, Southwest)

One United Methodist school in each region. It's a Wesleyan quadrilateral! Last season Duke achieved total sanctification (in the basketball sense of the phrase). The Blue Devils are capable of doing the same this year, especially if point guard Kyrie Irving is healthy. Syracuse fell from grace in January, but was justified by its play late in the season. Last year, Wofford earned its first NCAA Tournament berth. This year they're back. Boston U., home of the prestigious Boston University School of Theology, is back in the Big Dance after a nine-year absence. For what it's worth, both Wofford and Boston U. are the Terriers. I'm guessing there's a connection between United Methodism and small, English dogs. Perhaps the Wesleys had one.


  • Belmont (#13, Southeast)

  • Bucknell (#14, West)

Anyone who has been fully immersed in tournament coverage knows that Belmont is a popular pick to upset Wisconsin. A lot of analysts also have faith in Bucknell's ability to topple a Connecticut team that is likely worn down after winning five games in five days during the Big East Tournament.

Latter-Day Saints

  • Brigham Young (#3, West)

Staying faithful to its LDS principles cost BYU its starting power forward. But thanks to the talents of Jimmer Fredette, the most famous Mormon to come out of New York since Joseph Smith, the Cougars have a chance to advance to the second weekend for the first time in three decades.


  • Princeton (#13, East)

Neither Tulsa nor Davidson was among this year's elect, but Princeton is back in the dance for the first time in seven years.

Also: Vanderbilt (#5, Southwest) has historical ties to The United Methodist Church. The Commodores' opponent, Richmond (#12, Southwest), began as a Baptist institution. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) founded Butler (#8, Southeast) but maintain no formal ties to the school.

See Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports for an appendix with a complete list of religiously affiliated Division I schools.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bracket Challenge: Round 1 Picks

Update: View my bracket here. | View contest results here.

Over the next few weeks, Kevin Alton and I will be going one-on-one in an as-yet-unnamed bracket challenge. I'm getting a late start, which means that Kevin has already done the hard work of explaining the rules. Here you go:

The point system for my contest with my friend Josh goes as follows: Round one is a free round because it’s so nearly imaginary. It reminds me of when they introduced the division series to major league baseball; we all felt like it was an exhibition round. We resolved today that the four games of the first round have no point value for correct guesses and any incorrect guesses can be re-picked in the second round without penalty. The first round means that much to us. Round two is worth 10 points per correct pick; round 3 is worth 20, the regional semi-finals (I’m obviously reading off the bracket headings at this point) garner 30 points for a correct pick, and so on (adding 10 points per round) through the final which is worth 60 points for a correct guess.


We negotiated re-pick rules as well; inevitably at least my bracket will have some major holes in it. Re-picks will be designated on our brackets with an ® and are only worth half of that round’s original points. While it might sound unfair for one of us to blow out a side and still be allowed to pick a winner in the championship, the rewards for picking that same championship winner from the beginning more than offset any imbalance. For example, if I correctly pick UT San Antonio to roll large and win the whole thing and Josh waits until the championship to wise up and pick them, he’ll receive only 30 points for that final guess while I, who picked them from the beginning, will not only receive 60 points for picking UT San Antonio over Wofford in the final but also an additional 150 points for the cumulative round picks that correctly got them to the final. Clear enough?

We are going on the honor system and we’re open to negotiation along the way if we haven’t thought it all the way through.

So here are my picks for the point-less (literally) first round:

ROUND 1: March 15-16

16 UT-San Antonio over 16 Alabama State
UTSA is one of three schools in this year's bracket to have lost to my alma mater, the University of Evansville. So I'm pulling for the Roadrunners. It would be nice to be able to say that my Aces beat teams that actually won game in the NCAA Tournament. While UTSA finished seventh in the lowly Southland Conference, they made an impressive showing in the conference tournament, holding off regular-season champ McNeese State (apparently pronounced "MAC-neese state"). I like the Roadrunners to keep it going for one more game and to fell the hapless coyote that is Alabama State.

12 UAB over 12 Clemson
I'm not nearly as upset about the Blazers' inclusion as the talking heads at ESPN were. Conference USA was a strong league this year, and UAB won it outright. And, as much as I like Clemson defensively, I don't trust the Tigers in March. I'm picking UAB.

11 USC over 11 VCU
VCU probably doesn't deserve to be in this tournament, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them beat USC. USC has been hard to figure out all season. No team's résumé is filled with such a strange assortment of great wins (Texas, Tennessee, UCLA, Arizona) and terrible losses (Rider, Bradley, TCU, and Oregon State). But the Trojans have played well down the stretch, and I like them to move on.

16 Ark-Little Rock over 16 NC-Asheville
I hate picking teams based on conference affiliation, but I'm going with Little Rock because I like the Sun Belt better than the Big South. I also have fond memories of the UALR teams that overachieved in the late 1980s.

So there you go.

Here are Kevin's picks.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A Quick Lesson on Using Wikipedia for Research

I saw this on Failbook. This person was watching the Oscars red carpet coverage last Sunday and noticed Russell Brand with his mother. S/he then edited Brand's Wikipedia page, changing his mother's name from Barbara to Juliet. The following day several media outlets duplicated the intentional error, running pictures with captions referring to "Russell and Juliet Brand." Apparently, there were plenty of entertainment photographers, writers, and editors who were willing to trust Wikipedia without doing any additional research or fact-checking.

Nicely done, anonymous Wikipedia editor.

As much as I love living in a world where someone who is bored on a Sunday night can mess with unsuspecting entertainment reporters without leaving the comfort of his or her couch, I hate that this practical joke fuels negative stereotypes about Wikipedia—that it is unreliable and a tool of the lazy. I believe (in all sincerity) that Wikipedia is one of humankind's greatest achievements and feel that it is unfairly maligned because so many people fail to use it properly. So here are some rules and pointers for responsible Wikipedia use:

  • There are plenty of occasions for which a quick trip to Wikipedia is sufficient. If you need some quick information on the economy of Equatorial Guinea, a list of iCarly episodes, or a summary of the Revolutions of 1848 for a post on a personal blog (such as this one) or to satisfy your curiosity, Wikipedia should be fine. Most of the free encyclopedia's information is sound and accurate, and most of the bad articles are obviously bad and/or have been flagged by other users. For discerning readers, the chances of passing on bad information from a Wikipedia article are slim. The risk of messing up the name of a comedian's mother shouldn't scare you away from drawing on the Internet's greatest repository of information.

  • Still, anyone can write or edit Wikipedia. And while Wikimedia devotees do an incredible job policing the site, there's always the potential that dubious information will contaminate any of Wikipedia's 3,578,882 English-language articles. Thus citing Wikipedia is not sufficient for any writer who is being paid for his or her services or for any website or publication that considers itself a reliable source of information. But that doesn't mean you can't use Wikipedia for serious research. Wiki writers and editors tend to be very good about citing their sources. Wikipedia articles are a great starting point: not only do they organize and summarize key information about their subject, but they also provide numerous links to more reputable sources.

    You can take Wikipedia at its word that NASA initially referred to Eris as "the tenth planet," or you could follow the footnote to this press release from NASA's Jet Propulsion Labratoory. Wikipedia will tell you that Evansville, Indiana hosted college football's Refrigerator Bowl in the 1940s, but it will also direct you to this newspaper clipping from the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The Russell Brand entry actually links to this article, which confirms that Brand's mother's name is Barbara, not Juliet. Despite Wikipedia's shortcomings as a source in its own right, it is an excellent tool for finding relevant articles, books, press releases, etc. (And it is a much better tool than the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature.)

  • Finally, because anyone can edit Wikipedia, users have a responsibility to correct mistakes when they find them. If you come across a spelling or grammar error, fix it. If you notice that an article doesn't cite any sources, flag it. If an entry contains disputed information, voice your concerns on the talk page. Wikipedia is at its best when all users are invested in the quality and accuracy of its articles.