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Interactive Editorial Disappears from L.A. Times, Wiki Wiki

Wiki. It's one of the hottest words on the Internet and in at least one world-renowned newspaper. The word comes from the Hawaiian wiki wiki, meaning "quick." Do something wiki wiki.

On the Net, it relates to stories and pages that Web users can change almost instantly: wiki wiki! A free, online encyclopedia site called "Wikipedia" made the concept famous.

An expert on, say, wolf spiders, writes a Wikipedia article, and readers are invited to revise it or add to it. Someone could insert incorrect information, but the idea is that other vigilant readers would catch and correct the mistakes.

Recently the Los Angeles Times ignited a journalistic firestorm when it announced it would begin "wikitorials" -- online editorials that readers could edit and modify. It was a radical concept for a newspaper, where carefully reasoned editorials are usually immutable -- set in type, if not in stone.

The newspaper called the idea "a constantly evolving collaboration among readers in a communal search for truth." The L.A. Times was hoping, in particular, to involve young people, who rarely read editorials and who get most of their information from television and online chat rooms, web journals known as blogs and instant text messages.

So the paper posted, online, an interactive "wikitorial," about the conflict in Iraq. But it quickly removed the article because a few malicious readers flooded the site with pornography.

The idea of editorials open to wiki wiki reader feedback went back to the drawing boards until the paper figures out how to deal with online vandals and those who would distort a story to suit their political views.

"We don't know how this will turn out," the L-A Times' editorial page editor was quoted as saying. So far, it hasn't turned out very well.