How can untruths be printed

Yes how could Wikipedia, Biographies and tv productions

be able to print/state untrue facts?

Facts are not always easy to confirm.....for instance I may write about a person I know....and get a fact or two incorrect or a date wrong...someone else will come along and make good the mistakes....Wiki make it clear....they cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies...the facts are not checked....its not like a book or a newspaper article...

Then if my questions or descussions are not clear just pass them by without

trying to understand.

Barbara. I think many people on SFN do their best to understand your questions and to give you reasoned explanations. However your questions or observations are sometimes so opaque as to be difficult to comprehend. Don't mistake some attempt at introducing rigour to discussion as being a dislike of you as a person. Some of us learnt a long time ago that it was beneficial to all to separate the personal from discussion if we were to arrive at a reasoned outcome.

David I am not a driver.

I look for the truth and fairness.

It is always clear to me when someone has taken a dislike to me...

I do not have to see their is usually traced in their phrasing.

Understanding people is not such a bad asset.

Alas Barbara true facts can often be those that pertain to the party with the largest bank balance. Much safer as a general rule to biographise the dead as they can't sue. On the whole though I can't see what you're driving at here.

Ah yes....and then they contest...AND changes have to be made and notifications regarding

true facts are then brought towards Public attention.

That would be the ideal, yes.

I think TV producers are much more cautious because of the high figure defamation damages they would have to pay out so you'll have noticed the frequent inclusion of words such as 'allegedly' or 'rumoured' to emphasise something was not proven.

Biographers seem to have a little more artistic licence but can still fall foul, as with Andrew Morton now facing legal threats. Morton was a journalist for many years and still relies quite heavily on 'unnamed sources'. Tom Cruise is very much alive and obviously did NOT agree to the written material.

Another example would be 'Mommy Dearest' - the biography of Joan Crawford written by her daughter. Although she obviously knew Ms Crawford intimately, some of the material she wrote has been deemed pure fabrication by others also close to Ms Crawford who say it was vindictiveness for being left out of her will. So how do we know what's true and what's not?

So yes, unfortunately it is possible to print biographies or make TV documentaries which include suspicions or rumours and, as shown in the Andrew Morton/Tom Cruise example, without the subject's consent.

Thank you Valerie for a great explanation.

In short would it would not be possible to print a biography with

Penguin books or go allow a TV documentry to be shown about a person

highlighting in both cases a notion which was not a true reflection of the

person concerned.

It would never be allowed unless the subject...still living agrees to the written


I think what David says is true, Barbara. Biographers may spend years researching their subject and, if it is an authorised biography, will undoubtedly also have input from the person themselves or their immediate family. Andrew Morton, for example, wrote Princess Diana's authorised biography which contained many previously undisclosed things about her, but he did it with her help. He has since gone on - which might perhaps answer your question as to 'why would they' - to publish an unauthorised biography of Tom Cruise for which he has received legal threats. He suggested that Mr Cruise's life had been tailored simply to furthering the cause of the Church of Scientology and is now its second-in-command. He has suggested this based on inferences and unnamed sources. Does he have proof? We'll probably find out during the court case but it sells.

As to Wikipedia, I am copying part of their criteria for publishing:

"In general, sources with no editorial control are not reliable. These include (but are not limited to) books published by vanity presses, self-published 'zines', blogs, web forums, usenet discussions, fan sites ... and other similar venues. If anyone at all can post information without anyone else checking that information, it is probably not reliable.

To put it simply, if there are reliable sources (such as newspapers, journals, or books) ...then that subject is notable and you must cite such sources as part of the process of creating (or expanding) the Wikipedia article. If you cannot find such reliable sources that provide extensive and comprehensive information about your proposed subject, then the subject is not notable or verifiable and almost certainly will be deleted."

The "almost certainly" at the end suggests that if someone challenges the content of a Wikipedia article (which anybody can submit) then they'll look into it and check the reliability of the content. If no challenge is forthcoming, it just sits there. This seems to be backed up somewhat by their reference to reliable sources:

"Good research and citing your sources

Articles written out of thin air may be better than nothing, but they are hard to verify which is an important part of building a trusted reference work. Please research with the best sources available and cite them properly."

And therefore Wiki and Biographers would nothing to gain by printing anything other than


Common knowledge is detail which has been expressed by several parties about a person

or Place.

Wikpedia as it is written by the Wiki community is notorious for its "facts". Biographers have to make inferences from such evidence as there is and such inferences may later be contradicted by later writers if new evidence appears or a more plausible construct can be made.