This 4-minute Colbert Report clip should confirm your thoughts about Wikipedia's currency, reliability, authority, and purpose.
Wikipedia is a good place to get started with a topic that you know nothing about. Look at the index to the article to get ideas about possible subtopics. Use the links and external references at the bottom of the page as jumping-off points for more reliable sources. Keyword search for definitions, formulas, and other basic facts. When you are writing a paper, always find an authoritative source to cite.
News articles provide the most current information. Certain newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, are also known for thoughtful, in-depth analysis of important topics and events.
Popular magazine articles can help you generate ideas about issues, controversies, or unanswered questions about a topic. They often refer to studies or scholarly work that you can track down for more information.
Trade publications are written by and for professionals within an industry and are an excellent source of very specific information from inside the field.
Scholarly journal articles go through a process of peer review before they are published. They are written by experts in the field, and their purpose is to advance the ongoing body of work within the subjet or discipline. These articles present original research data and findings, or take a position on a key question within the field. They can be difficult to read because the language is specific to the subject for an intended audience of other experts and academics.
Voters who listen to political debates will likely hear conflicting interpretations of history. What truly happened in the past is the subject of an ongoing, loud debate in politics. Steve Inskeep delves into this topic with college professor Timothy Messer-Kruse, who attempted to make a small edit on the Wikipedia page for the 1886 Haymarket Square riot in Chicago.