Scooped, NBC Gets Wikipedia Updater Fired

In the super-fast world of the Internet, if a story breaks, you can expect the Wikipedia entry for that subject to be updated faster than you can blink. In the case of Tim Russert's sad death on June 13th, NBC contacted other networks and media outlets in an attempt to hold back the news long enough to notify his family vacationing in Italy. Before they knew it, however, it was already updated on Wikipedia.

On Wikipedia, Mr. Russert’s page was updated at 3:01 p.m. — adding the date of death and turning present-tense verbs into the past tense almost 40 minutes before the NBC announcement. The entry was particularly influential since many journalists had heard of Mr. Russert’s becoming stricken, but did not know the outcome. If some turned to Wikipedia to refresh themselves about Mr. Russert, they found an article that seemed to confirm what many had been hearing.

“We were not prepared to say anything until all the family had heard,” said Allison Gollust, an NBC News spokeswoman. “The last thing we wanted to do was to have the family discover this on the air.” She said NBC had asked the other networks to hold back and they readily agreed.

“Before we reported it, I remember someone saying it’s on Wikipedia,” she said, which had them “flabbergasted.”


Now, according to the NYT, the "updater" has been fired.  However, other reports are that the updater has merely been suspended.  Either way, what do you readers think?  After all, he was undoubtedly "on the clock" when he updated the entry, all other considerations aside.

Tags:  Update, Fire, Wikipedia, Date, PDA, NBC, Red, wiki, IP, K

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