Steve McNair and the Failure of Breaking News Reporting

It’s a late Fourth of July afternoon here in Bethesda, Maryland and I am sitting here working on a chapter in the new book. Peacefully minding my own business while the steady stream of chips from Tweetdeck occurred, I did not realize what was happening.

Steve McNair died. Putting aside the tragedy (he was a former Raven, a hero among athletes and, by all acounts, men – NFL MVP, a warrior known to play through countless injuries, mature in his approach to life and the game), we witnessed a catastrophic failure of major media. Again.

I’m not one to crucify major media. Indeed, I may be one of the few in my industry to want to see the newspaper and other forms of traditional media succeed in a huge fashion. The problem is that, even in the days of blogs and Twitter, we still rely on major media to report the news. To do the journalism. To find the sources and produce the confirmation.

As much as we in new media claim to be journalists, major media still does the job better than most of us could hope too.

We rely on Twitter and sometimes we’re wrong. Take the example of the report that actor Jeff Goldblum had died. Highly inaccurate. Stephen Colbert even fucked around with us in new media claiming that if it happens on Twitter, it must be true.

This afternoon, Twitter was ablaze with reports that Nashville Police has found former Tennessee Titan and Baltimore Raven quarterback, Steve McNair, dead in an apparent murder suicide. WKRN, in Nashville, was the first with the news and it quickly disappeared off their page – a result of too much traffic or erroring on the side of caution, who is to really know.

NBC Affiliate WTVF, Channel 5, was the second to report it filling the gap where WKRN dropped off.

It was a long time (30 minutes or so) before national media picked it up. ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports by their own slogan, didn’t have it. No one did. We were left gasping for more. Is the rumor true? Can anyone confirm? Can police confirm?

Was any of us on Twitter making calls? Maybe. A few possibly. Not many.

Major media got a little jittery in the past. After 9/11. With other reports that turned into an overcompensation. Fact is, major media can safely report on a rumor as long as it is billed as such. No one has to say that this is confirmed. But people want to know. We get our news on the internet.

We find out about things happening in Iran via Twitter. We find out about Michael Jackson dying… on Twitter. We read blogs that deal with Sarah Palin’s awkwardly bizarre resignation at Alaska governor. We’re not watchoing your TV stations. We’re not in Nashville. Welcome to the global economy.

Report the damn news and report it as a rumor to hedge your bets. But report the news.

Photo Credit: mdu2boy

Update: Most media organizations are reporting a double homicide now, not a murder sucide. WKRV, who was first with the story, had reported a possible murder-suicide.

Writing "The WordPress Bible"

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

That’s how the process of coming to be the newest author for Wiley Publishing seems to have gone, even though the initial contact was only in late April.

Back then, I received a mysterious email in my inbox asking if I would be interested in writing The WordPress Bible. Fascinated, I immediately responded back and the conversation began.

We have had an agreement in principle for several weeks and now that the contract is official, I feel comfortable talking publicly about the deal – though the details of the deal will remain undisclosed.

I’m excited about writing this book. As many of you who have been with me for these more than five years know, I began the process of writing a book with my friend and colleague Jeremy Wright back in 2005. Honestly, I don’t think either of our hearts were in that book and we amicably agreed with the publisher that we wouldn’t complete that project. Sort of a shame in itself, but all for the better.

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That project gave me a little window into the life of an author. Overcoming writers block. Roadmapping chapters. Communication at all time with project editors. Stylesheets. Deadlines. All that jazz.

At that time, I was much less mature as a writer so it was a huge challenge to write effectively and for an audience. At that time, I was a much more free-spirited author writing often elaborate (and possibly poetic) prose which might not have been the right fit for a book of that nature. Today, I still am the best damned writer around (kidding) but know when to turn it on and off and how to write an effective 4000 word article or a 140 character tweet.

Today, I approach The WordPress Bible with some fear and trepidation. Currently, the book is marked at around a cool 700 pages. And oh yes, it has to be done in October. Yikes!

What this effectively means is that for the next four months, I will be spending monumental amounts of time doing nothing but writing. I’m considering disappearing to the mountains once a month for 3-4 days just to write.

During the process, I am going to continue to work with my clients to deliver valuable WordPress solutions for their businesses. In the past week, I have secured 3 more clients that I will be able to work with over the next few months.

I want to thank Stephanie McComb at Wiley for believing in me and reaching out to me in April. This will be a great addition to the Bible series. I also want to thank Lynn Haller from Studio B for helping me through the process and running valuable interference during the negotiations. Anyone looking to write a book should reach out to her to represent you. Authors should usually have agents and she’s a great agent.

I can’t wait for this book to hit the shelf. It’s going to be an invaluable resource for WordPress users, themers and developers of all range of skills and will be a “must order”.