If you’re first, you’re fired

What a message in the breaking news age. The person who posted the death of Tim Russert on Wikipedia has apparently been fired, least that’s what NBC sources say they’ve been told.

The Wikipedia entry on Tim Russert seems to be first report of the death, well before NBC, other TV networks or the Associated Press reported the death. NBC said it was waiting until the family could be notified.

The New York Times reported Monday that:

Looking at the detailed records of editing changes recorded by
Wikipedia, it quickly emerged that the changes came from Internet
Broadcasting Services, a company in St. Paul, Minn., that provides Web
services to a variety of companies, including local NBC TV stations.

I.B.S. spokeswoman said on Friday that “a junior-level employee made
updates to the Wikipedia page upon learning of Mr. Russert’s passing,
thinking it was public record.” She added that the company had “taken
the necessary measures with the employee and apologized to NBC.” NBC
News said it was told the employee was fired.

The story notes that the New York Times and New York Post also posted stories before NBC. The other networks have a tradition (that seems all too quaint in the Internet Era) of allowing the network who suffers a death to announce it first.

That it was on Wikipedia before NBC wanted to announce it “flabbergasted” an NBC spokeswoman. And MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann did his best self-righteous indignation over someone not playing by club rules.

Most of those who posted comments on an earlier post I did thought NBC had done the right thing in being  respectful to the family by making sure the family got the news before it had broadcast it. I can empathize with the family, but we’re long past six media outlets controlling news flow.

It was fine for NBC to hold the information until the family was notified, but it’s ludicrous to be flabbergasted by being beaten on news you were holding. And it’s plain dumb to fire someone for getting it first and right.

(via J.D. Lasica)