The tragic news of NBC newsman Tim Russert’s death was always going to create a press bonanza. In a fantastic look behind the scenes of news broadcasting, there is an unwritten rule that news of such a death is to be broken by the respective station, and only after the family is first informed. This was NBC’s intent, after Russert collapsed in the NBC newsroom, but the internet did its best to make it all for naught.
Apparently, despite their best attempts, NBC lost out to an intrepid Wikipedian working at a company that provides web services to some of NBC’s affiliates. A “junior-level employee” apparently had heard the news, assumed it was now public knowledge, and edited Russert’s details on Wikipedia, changing everything to past tense and adding a date of death.
Within 11 minutes it had been changed back, making us wonder just whose job it is at NBC to monitor Wikipedia for such changes, but already the news had been outsourced to Twitter, the internet’s mostly beloved mini-blog/chat application.
In a day and age where a lot of people claim to be a reporter, with a high school degree and a blogspot, it’s unsurprising that this news would have made the rounds quickly. And though I find it unlikely that the family would ever have found out via Twitter, the problem still arises; how do you keep justifiably sensitive information quiet?
The blog community is already up in arms about the consequences of the junior employee’s actions. According to a New York Times article, which has since been called in to question, the young employer has been fired for his actions. An NBC executive has since suggested that the employee was only temporarily suspended, but no one has been able to confirm it as yet.
For a long time the rights of the reporter and the rights of an online journalist have been up in the air. Now no one is saying that the young employee in question is posing himself as a journalist, but given that they were under the impression the news was public knowledge, the furor around the internet is not small.
Posted by Josh Hill.