The relevancy of the news scoop
The Poynter Institute’s Steve Myers recently detailed an exchange between New York Times reporter Brook Barnes and Reuters reporter Peter Lauria on Twitter, where a heated debate broke out over who scooped whom on the news that Rich Ross, chairman of Walt Disney studios, had stepped down.
“It was a 30 second difference, so who cares?” Rick Edmonds, an analyst with the Poynter Institute, said recently when relaying the exchange. Apparently, the journalists do.
As news models have changed with the advent of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, so too has the makeup of the news scoop. A recent survey cited by GigaOm found the number of people who care about who actually reported the news first is declining. Instead, viewers and listeners care more about the trustworthiness of a news source.
But although readers may not be keeping tally of news breakers, the Reuters-Times Twitter exchange indicates that journalists are still very dedicated to the age-old practice of news scooping.
Jay Grossman, a reporter with Michigan’s Birmingham Eccentric believes the news scoop is just as relevant now as it was ten years ago. “As a reporter, you don’t want to see another news outlet beating you to a story that occurred on your beat. There’s a sense of competition that will always exist,” he said in an email interview.
Be that as it may, the scoop is no longer confined to print or even digital editions of outlets. Virtually every scoop comes through social media, noted John Gelberg, chief content officer for Blue Fountain Media and a columnist for Inc.com. “Traditional print media can’t compete with social media when it comes to scoops, so the journalist must first broadcast the scoop via social media and then put the scoop into context with the full story,” he said in an email interview. “Nothing can replace great investigative or explanatory journalism – certainly nothing that is delivered in 140 characters or less.”
Despite civilians like Sohaib Athar, who famously tweeted the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound, The New York Times recently proved that traditional journalism’s roots in investigations and scoops is still significant when they broke the news that Wal-Mart’s Mexico subsidiary has been paying bribes. “Yeah, that was a scoop,” said Edmonds, who believes the news scoop is merely being redefined. For instance, a story might break on Twitter but readers will turn to sources like CNN for further developments.
Even the legalities surrounding the news scoop have changed, noted Edmonds. The “hot news” doctrine of 1918 originated with International News Service v. Associated Press and said news organizations could have a “quasi-property” right over news they had researched and reported. But in this digital landscape it’s hard to say what relevance that even has anymore. PaidContent reported that the “hot news” doctrine has never been enforced in the digital age except for one case, which was overturned on appeal. In an era where a breaking story is only exclusive for mere seconds before someone else is linking to it on the Web, exclusivity is hard to come by.
But although the relevancy of the scoop is debatable, it’s apparent that print can no longer claim the scoop for itself. It comes in different forms, from breaking news to investigative pieces. But whether it’s revealed on Twitter, or in the long-form journalism of old, digital is usually where it’s found first. Quicker and shorter, Grossman contends that news has taken a hit in quality. But who breaks the news first still seems to be important, at least to the journalist. “It’s always important for a news organization to ‘lead the charge’ on a story,” said Grossman. “That’s what we’re here for, to inform our readers. Because the readers can choose between so many news outlets, it’s important to be the first to get a story – and to make sure you get it right.”
–Katrina M. Mendolera
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