NBC held off on the announcement for two hours, to reach Russert's family before the news spread. But news in the Internet era just doesn't keep that long.
A "junior-level employee" at IBS, which provides online services to local NBC affiliates, updated Russert's Wikipedia page 40 minutes before NBC made its statement, according to the Times.
If anyone should know by now how fast news travels in the Internet era, it's another media company like NBC. But it seems that NBC, much like The Associated Press and other old-media businesses, hasn't yet grasped that news is no longer published in a top-down manner.
Thanks to the growth of social sites like Wikipedia, Digg and Drudge Retort (a parody of the Drudge Report) anyone with a computer can now reach millions of readers instantaneously. Unlike even five years ago, it isn't necessary to have your own blog, with an audience of influential readers, to spread news.
Yet, old media still appears convinced it can control when news is released, or in the case of the AP, how online writers can quote from its articles. Last week, the AP roiled the blogosphere by saying it was going to issue "guidelines" spelling out the proper use of its material by online journalists -- never mind that people already have the right to make "fair use" of others' content.
Just as one company doesn't get to dictate "fair use," neither can one news organization determine when news will break -- at least not as long as there are sites like Wikipedia