Old Media and New Media Race to Cover bin Laden Death, Planning Extras, Specials and More

Locked-Down Wikipedia Articles, Increased Print Runs, Expanded Newscasts

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The cover of Time 's forthcoming special issue.
The cover of Time 's forthcoming special issue.

News organizations that went all out to cover the recent royal wedding suddenly found themselves facing a serious news event with far greater implications Sunday night as word emerged that Osama bin Laden had been killed. The scramble that started then is now continuing today and tomorrow -- at least.

The New York Times expanded its Monday print run by 165,000 copies, 125,000 of which went to the New York area, 2.5 times its normal print run there. The Times plans a special section for Tuesday's paper, which will also include higher print runs.

The Times did not exempt its online coverage from counting against the pay meter it recent installed, but pointed out that because yesterday was the first day of May, the monthly meter was starting from zero and most people would not have run into the pay wall trying to read bin Laden coverage.

An "unprecedented" surge in traffic to the site Sunday night created a glitch for about a half hour, during which people who weren't logged in couldn't read articles.

The Wall Street Journal, which also received a huge spike in traffic, did make its reports about bin Laden's death free on the web. It plans more than four hours of live video over the course of the day Monday. It also padded its print run with extra copies in select markets but declined to say how many copies it added.

The Washington Post said it printed an extra 34,000 copies.

CBS and ABC are expanding their nightly newscasts to a full hour from the regular half-hour tonight. CBS's Katie Couric will anchor the report from Ground Zero in New York, reporting not just the latest on how bin Laden was killed but sitting down with people who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks, while correspondents weigh in from Washington, D.C., and Islamabad.

ABC's Diane Sawyer will also anchor from Ground Zero during an hour that will include interviews with Rudy Giuliani, Dick Cheney and survivors of 9/11 victims; reports from Pakistan; and video from inside the compound where bin Laden was killed.

ABC News Radio plans a one-hour special, "Osama bin Laden: The Death of Public Enemy #1," at 7:06 p.m.

It's not just mass media news, of course, responding quickly to the news. Wikipedia's volunteer community took steps of a different sort, putting both the Osama bin Laden and the Death of Osama bin Laden pages under "semi protection," which means people who are anonymous or have no editing record won't be able to change those pages.

"This is not to prevent people from editing," said Jay Walsh, head of communications for the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia. "It's to maintain the quality of the articles. It's fundamentally about preventing vandalism and making sure this article is as good as possible."

Just thousands of Wikipedia's 4 million or so English-language articles are under some kind of protection, he said.

Despite its "semi protection," the Death of Osama bin Laden page has received more than 1,000 edits in less than 24 hours as it expanded rapidly. That page was originally created in 2006 but was blank until yesterday.

News magazines are also reacting. Time is releasing a special issue to reach newsstands on Thursday. Newsweek will go on sale earlier than usual, this Friday, the magazine said.

People magazine may seem better suited to covering the royal wedding, but it also covers serious news events when they warrant. Its issue covering the Sept. 11 attacks sold 4.1 million copies on newsstands, the magazine's top newsstand seller of all time, followed at No. 2 by a "Goodbye Diana" issue that sold nearly 3 million on newsstands.

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Contributing: Brian Steinberg

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