“The Arbiter of Notability,” by Greg Landgraf

Jan 27th, 2021 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

I swear, Googling myself was an act of laziness rather than ego. I’d accepted but not started a new job, and I needed to find out my exact title. (Is it marketing and communications coordinator, or communications and marketing? That’s the kind of thing a communications and marketing coordinator, or even a marketing and communications coordinator, should get right.) I could have found the offer letter in my email, but my inbox looks like Jane Austen’s rage room, and my new employer had hinted that they might be making a public announcement, so I thought an online search might be the way to go.

Googling my name and my new employer didn’t find that news article. Instead, the first result was Wikipedia.

Not my own entry, obviously. Such a thing doesn’t exist and I shudder to think what it might look like if someone created it. “Greg Landgraf is a writer currently living in Maryland who is rather dull and needlessly ugly,” probably. Along with an alert that “This article about a United States writer of non-fiction is a stub. You can help Wikipedia and society as a whole by ignoring it completely.” Or, more likely, “This article was already deleted in accordance with Wikipedia’s deletion policy. You are seeing it due to a serious error, probably on a cosmic scale.”

No, my name came up in footnote number 3 on the Wikipedia page for Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress.

It’s legitimate. I interviewed Hayden for a magazine for librarians shortly after Congress confirmed her appointment. But more surprising than finding my name there is how it was used. Wikipedia cited my interview as proof that Hayden was, in fact, the Librarian of Congress, as opposed to a world-famous shepherd or an MMA champion.

An interview I did! Not, say, the Washington Post, or the confirmation vote tally published in the Congressional Record, or that really insightful profile of Hayden in Model Railroader. Apparently my interview has greater authority than those or any other sources.

And “authority” is important currency in Wikipedia. Anyone can edit or even create pages, but there’s also an active community of editors who are diligent about deleting pages that don’t meet the site’s standards.

That gives me a super-power: I’m the Arbiter of Notability.

I promise to use this power only for good. I’m scouring the world for brilliant but overlooked scientists, statespeople with inspiring but under-heard messages, or a chef who has found the secret to making decent vegan cupcake, instead of that festering zombie squidge some people try to pass off as edible. I’ll interview them, publish the interview someplace prestigious like The Economist or Reddit, create a Wikipedia page for the subject that links to my interview, and they’ll suddenly have a platform they can use to create positive change in the world.

The thing is, I’ve been looking for, like, four hours, and it’s really hard and my feet hurt, so I’m gonna need to switch things up a bit. If you need a platform to create positive change in the world, call me. I’ll interview you for the low, low price of $49.99, and make you important enough for a Wikipedia page of your own.

I’ll also do it for a cape, if you can translate “Arbiter of Notability” into a logo that would look good. Superheroes need capes, right?

In any event, I know Wikipedia allows anyone to edit, so you might change Carla Hayden’s entry so it uses a different source to prove that she’s the Librarian of Congress. I beg you not to. My new job is no longer a job thanks to the coronavirus, so right now, “Arbiter of Notability” is pretty much all I’ve got.


Greg Landgraf has written and produced musicals about evil unicorns and a going-out-of-business sale at a brothel. You may have seen his non-humorous writing in magazines about furniture-making, libraries, road construction and maintenance, or minor-league Renaissance Faires. (He was paid for three of those.) He lied, and the job he recently moved from Ohio to the Maryland suburbs of D.C. for is still a job, at least for now. See greglandgraf.wordpress.com or twitter.com/@groovesplat.

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