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According to today’s New York Times, NBC tried to hold back the news from going public for more than an hour so they could notify his family vacationing in Italy. Mr. Russert was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived at a hospital at 2:23p.m.; Tom Brokaw announced the news at 3:39. But the online encyclopedia Wikipedia had posted the event long before NBC reported it.

They updated Mr. Russert’s page at 3:01 p.m., adding the date of death and turning present-tense verbs into the past tense almost 40 minutes before NBC’s announcement. Officials at Mr. Russert’s home network were understandably frustrated, even “flabbergasted,” as one said later. A spokesman explained, “The last thing we wanted to do was to have the family discover this on the air.”

The story gets even stranger. The employee who made updates to the Wikipedia page has apparently been fired. Eleven minutes after his change, someone else deleted the date of death and turned all the past tenses back into present tenses. Minutes later, NBC made its announcement and the world was given the news.

It’s been said that bad news circles the globe while good news is putting on its shoes. “Give the story no place to go” is always sound advice. Full disclosure as soon as possible is essential. The truth invariably comes out, so it’s best to tell it the first time.

What a lesson for evangelism!


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