Wikipedia Updater Fired For Scooping NBC on Tim Russert's Death

This one makes the o’l head spin… here’s the background. NBC journalist Tim Russert dies at work; NBC holds off on reporting the news until the family can be notified.  Someone who works for the company that supplies internet access to NBC updates the Wikipedia entry for Russert before NBC breaks the story. Scandal? Innocent mistake? Just cause for termination? (Silicon Alley Insider)

According to the NYT,
the person who updated the Wikipedia entry 40 minutes before NBC
reported it worked at Internet Broadcasting Services, a company that
provides web services to TV stations including NBC affiliates. IBS says
a “junior-level employee” changed the Wikipedia entry to reflect
Russert’s death because he or she thought it was common knowledge. When
NBC discovered the entry–and freaked out about it–someone else at IBS
deleted the date of Russert’s death and changed all of the verb tenses back. And then IBS took care of the employee. NYT:

An I.B.S. spokeswoman…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.”


If the employee learned the news because NBC was officially
distributing it to affiliates under embargo, that’s one thing (the
firing would be appropriate). If the employee heard about it unofficially, however, from friends at NBC or I.B.S., then the firing was outrageous.* UPDATE:
An NBC exec disputes the NYT report, and says the IBS employee was
merely suspended, temporarily. We’ll update if we can confirm.

It’s one thing for a news organization to decide to delay reporting
news of a staffer’s death out of deference to his or her family (this
makes sense). It’s another for the organization to expect other organizations to follow the same policy. And it is yet another thing for someone to deliberately strike accurate facts from a collective record to appease an upset client, which is what someone at IBS apparently did.

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