Many articles lack sources. I just happened to look at a biography
of a Swedish journalist, born in 1968. He received some fine
awards, and there is no doubt he is notable enough. But the
article has no sources. Ten years ago, in 1999, for a journalist
born in 1958, I would just look him up in the Swedish "Who's who",
which was published every two years. But that title seems to be
discontinued. Or if another issue is ever published, it comes
with much longer intervals.
Such reference works go the same way as printed encyclopedias and
dictionaries. For a young, ambitious journalist today, being in
Facebook and Linkedin (and Wikipedia) counts just as much as being
in Who's who did ten years ago.
Should I use the journalist's Linkedin profile as a source? I
don't think that is acceptable. All sorts of lies could hide
there. And users could remove themselves from Linkedin or edit
their profile at any time. Old issues of Who's who don't change,
they are a stable reference.
But the fact is, Who's who is/was also based on user-submitted
autobiographies. The editors made a list of people who "should"
be in there, and sent invitations with a form where the person
could fill in details about family, education, career,
publications, awards, and hobbies. I'm not sure how the editors
fact checked the entries. Perhaps the risk of public shame was
enough to keep people from lying.
Printed editions have another advantage for the historian. If a
Swedish person "forgot" to mention in the 1945 edition that they
received a German medal of honor in 1938, perhaps that information
can be found in the 1939 edition. In this era of Linkedin and
Facebook profiles, how can we ever dig up information from the
past, that a person wants to hide?
Lars Aronsson (lars(a)aronsson.se)
Aronsson Datateknik - http://aronsson.se