Thursday, April 06, 2006

Broken News: There's the most ridiculous argument going on now regarding Tom DeLay. Both Chris Matthews of MSNBC and Mike Allen of Time Magazine claim they got the scoop about DeLay resigning from Congress. I haven't looked up the time stamp to figure out which one beat the other, because I don't care. I found out about the news on NPR the next morning.

Journalists seemed to have lost sight on what a true "scoop" is. DeLay was going to announce his resignation with or without the media's help. If you happen to beat his announcement, that's not so much a scoop as an exclusive. You've essentially scooped a press release.

There's nothing wrong with getting something first. Such competition among journalists generally improves news gathering and gets information out quickly. But that also leads to irresponsible reporting of rumors, many of which have to be corrected or retracted later. Being right today doesn't mean anything if the information is wrong tomorrow.

If you do get an accurate story first, there's plenty of reason to be proud. But don't brag incessantly about it like Chris Matthews. Nobody cares.

A true scoop is something that nobody would have covered if it weren't for your journalistic digging. A perfect example of that is The New York Times story on the NSA wiretaps. The Bush administration surely wasn't going to announce it. And The Times spent a year reporting the story -- confirming that the information is true, that this is a big deal, and that reporting it wouldn't jeopardize national security before printing the story. That's a true service of journalism.

Of course, there is some controversy about whether The Times was right to run the story. But they found enough whistleblowers who had strong enough concerns that the wiretapping crosses privacy, and possibly legal, lines that the program needed to be made public.

That beats your typical "scoop" pertaining to whether Politician X is or is not really running for president. All such speculation stories just feed publicity to the potential candidate, and do little to inform the public about what's really going on. And all that digging and schmoozing would be better spent finding real news instead of beating routine announcements.


Post a Comment

Copyright © Staunch Moderate
Using Caribou Theme | Bloggerized by Themescook