Who broke the news?

When I covered the Binghamton Mets, New York's Double-A affiliate, one of my primary resources for information was Mets Blog, run by Matthew Cerrone. It's probably the best fan blog I've seen in any sport and helped keep me up to date on what was going on with the big-league club and throughout the system. Two weeks ago, just before going on vacation, I saw a post of Matt's on his Tumblr. The subject: Does anybody outside of the media care who breaks news?

In sports journalism circles, people very much care who breaks the story. Part of it is ego, no doubt. But breaking news is career currency in journalism, the way publishing in peer-reviewed journals is in academia. The traditional measure of how good a reporter is is how many stories he or she has broken, or what stories he or she has broken. I got a job at a bigger paper in Binghamton in part because I was honored for breaking the St. Bonaventure welding scandal.

To be fair, this is inside baseball-ey of reporters. Do fans care? Anecdotally, I get mixed messages. Sometimes, fans will claim to not care. But if a media outlet is the last to report something, fans will often ridicule them for being behind or reporting "what everyone already knows anyway." (NOTE: This is not in reference to Matt or the fan he quoted in his post. It's my own independent observations). Plus, if a reporter is going to "build a brand," (Or, for Gene Weingarten, developed a reputation), one of the primary ways is to be known as a journalist who consistently breaks news (rather than a glorified stenographer).

That's why reporters care so much about who breaks stories. It's not just ego. OK, a lot of it is ego. But it's also one of the ways reporters define themselves. In this changing media landscape, it's one of the ways news organizations can differentiate themselves from other media outlets.

One of the things I'm finding in my research, though, is that the nature of a scoop is changing. In the print era, having a scoop meant having a story in the print paper that no one else did. This was a triumph, because you had a victory over your competitors for an entire day. You were the must-read, and everyone else was playing catch-up. Now, things are changing. Now, it's more and more a mindset of publishing breaking news online, via the website or Twitter. That means your victory is usually seconds or minutes long before somebody links to it or retweets it.

That may sound minor and petty, but this is a big change for reporters. There are still some I've talked to who want their big scoops to be held for the paper the next day. They still believe that a scoop in the paper is the ultimate. Plus, if your currency is breaking news, and the notion of breaking news is changing to the point where having a scoop almost irrelevant (since your competition can pick it up and share it right away, rather than the next day), that's a breakdown in your system.

The way to look at it may be to take a broader view. Do I care who breaks any one story? No. Because many times, that can come down to who types the fastest, who happens to get a call back first, whose Twitter app is fastest. But I do care what reporters tend to break the most news, the ones who are in front of the stories rather than behind it, who are telling me things I don't know and things I didn't know I wanted to know rather than just repeating stats and quotes, that I'm going to be following and reading.

What's everyone else think?