Philip Roth encounters trouble editing his own Wikipedia page

When Philip Roth attempted to correct a Wikipedia entry about his novel 'The Human Stain,' he was told he needed secondary sources.

Courtesy of Nancy Crampton/Simon and Schuster
Philip Roth ran into trouble with Wikipedia when he attempted to edit the entry on his novel 'The Human Stain.'

Wikipedia is designed to be an encyclopedia edited by everyone. Users can go into the website and fix mistakes they find in entries (or, in some notorious cases, introduce misinformation). But author Philip Roth found himself up against the site’s administrators when he tried to correct an entry about one of his own books.

Roth attempted to edit the Wikipedia entry on his novel “The Human Stain,” which stated that the book was “allegedly inspired by the life of the writer Anatole Broyard.” Roth said that the book was in fact inspired by something that happened to a friend of his who worked as a professor at Princeton University.

When he tried to correct the entry, Roth got a letter from the administrator of the English Wikipedia, who said he needed secondary sources to back up his correction.

“I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” read the letter, “but we require secondary sources.”

Roth wrote an open letter about the incident to The New Yorker, which was published last week. In it, he detailed the way he found inspiration for "The Human Stain" in the life of his friend the professor – and not in the life of Anatole Broyard.

The entry has now been fixed and includes a description of the incident.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Philip Roth encounters trouble editing his own Wikipedia page
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today