September 5, 2007
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Apparently, someone at local NBC affiliate WOOD-TV has been adding obscenities to the Wikipedia page of local ABC affiliate WZZM-TV.

As noted on The Colbert Report and in the pages of The New York Times, online tool WikiScanner ( tracks anonymous edits to the popular open source encyclopedia Wikipedia by IP address.

While it cannot be proven that a representative of WOOD-TV tweaked its competitor’s Wikipedia page on seven occasions in February and again in July — changing “high definition” to “sub-standard definition,” strategically placing words such as Chihuahua, fart and others less suitable for print, and nicknaming a prominent WZZM personality “Fatzie Bee” — it is certain that the changes came from a computer on the WOOD-TV network.

Wikipedia is a chief concern for major corporations.

A Wikipedia page is the fifth result in a Google search for “Alticor” and third for “Amway.” It is the fourth for Herman Miller, Steelcase and Meijer.

In the national news, WikiScanner has been used primarily to root out PR malfeasance, the leading example an Exxon Mobil Corp. IP rewriting the Wikipedia page for the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Locally, an Alticor IP has made dozens of changes on the pages for Amway, Quixtar, Ada Township, Alticor, corporate crime, Google bomb and pyramid scheme. As can be imagined, some of these are of a questionable nature.

A Steelcase IP made several anonymous edits to its page, along with those of several punk rock bands, and vandalized the page of Grand Rapids-born former Detroit Tiger Dave Rozema.

A Meijer IP made changes to its page as well, along with a great many more favorable changes to the Quixtar page. A Herman Miller IP made edits to its own page and that of the Aeron and Eames Lounge chairs, and on two occasions vandalized its own page.

The WOOD culprit(s) also attacked the pages of Traverse City NBC affiliate WPBN-TV, Traverse City Fox affiliate WFQX-TV, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, the city of Grand Rapids, two sex acts and even the station’s own Wikipedia page. On one occasion, the offender wrote that weekend anchor Brad Edwards had been accosted by the Chinese Mob and afternoon co-anchor Brian Sterling had been killed by a goat. A Grand Rapids Public Schools IP added obscenities to the Dick DeVos Wikipedia page. On the governor’s page, a Spectrum Health IP replaced the Mulhern in Jennifer Mulhern Granholm with “Sweet Cheeks.”

Whatever the purpose, it’s clear that some workers are spending a lot of time editing Wikipedia on the company clock. Someone at the Grand Rapids office of accounting firm Crowe Chizek absolutely loves fantasy novels and role-playing games, making hundreds of anonymous edits. Someone at BDO Seidman in Grand Rapids really hates Boston Red Sox short stop Julio Lugo.

Nearly 400 edits have been made from a Warner Norcross & Judd IP on subjects ranging from baseball to Egyptian history, but none on legal affairs. At least the Crowe Chizek worker found time to tweak the company page.

  • Speaking of Wikipedia, while coverage in national publications such as USA Today, The New York Times and others is certainly cause for excitement, a better barometer for the region’s stature might be the attention it is getting in markets with little reason to care about what is happening in Michigan.

With that, the Argus Leader, the 50,000-reader daily newspaper of Sioux Falls, S.D., last week interviewed Grand Rapids Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong for a Sunday feature on the city’s booming downtown medical district.

Buoyed by a $400 million donation from Premier Bank founder T. Denny Sanford, the Dakotas’ only billionaire, Sioux Falls’ Sanford Health, paced by neighboring competitor Avera Health, is rapidly growing, with new buildings, cancer, heart and specialty treatment centers, research institutes and medical office villages (sound familiar?).

With the health care interests rapidly absorbing downtown neighborhoods, city leaders are both excited and anxious, and Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile was hailed as a standard of a growing urban medical community, where, for the most part, development is growing up and not out.

“It’s very important to focus not just on the institutions but also on everything that can happen around them,” DeLong told the Leader.

  • Client sources at Great Lakes Marina & Storage in Muskegon have confirmed that the acquisition of the operation by CNL Income Properties and Marinas International closed last week. As first reported in the Business Journal last April, the acquisition is likely to involve the development of 24 acres of adjacent Muskegon Lake frontage into a mixed-used development with luxury homes and up to 400 new slips.

  • In other Muskegon news, the Sidock Group broke ground on its new office at the former Muskegon mall site last week within hours of receiving a roughly $235,00 tax incentive package from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

  • Grand Rapids Community College is renaming its Hospitality Education Department the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education this month in honor of occasional restaurateur and consummate fundraiser Peter Secchia, who made an unspecified donation to the program’s expansion campaign. The official re-christening of the program will occur at the first annual GRCC Foundation Fundraiser Oct. 18 at the college. Naturally, the event is themed as a party al Italiano, featuring flavors from five Italian region: Secchia served as the U.S. ambassador to Italy from 1989 to 1993 and was founding president of the West Michigan Lodge of the Order of Sons of Italy in America. He was awarded Italy’s Cavaliere di Gran Croc as an ambassador and was named Italian-American of the Year in 1995.    

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