Presumably, you're a sports media nerd.
I mean, you're reading a site called "Sports Media Guy" that's written by a college professor. As a fellow sports media nerd, I welcome you. And since I am a professor, I have a quiz for you. No peaking, no cheating, answer quickly:
Four years ago, who broke the story that LeBron James was signing with Miami?
Now if you're really good, or if you happened to read my post earlier this week, or if you have a really good memory of Bryan Curtis' piece at Grantland from Monday, or you are a member of Stephen A. Smith's family, you may remember that it was Stephen A. Smith.
Otherwise - maybe you guessed Woj? (Which would be a good guess, because Woj is always a good guess). Maybe you guessed "ESPN" remember The Decision and all the drama that created. Maybe you didn't remember.
And that gets to the point.
Which is to address the heretical-sounding question I posed the other day: Does it matter who breaks the story about where LeBron James?
The blunt yes: Of course it matters! What kind of journalist are you? Reporters break news! That's what they do!
The blunt no Nope. No one cares who breaks a story. No one remembers. It's just gonna be all over Twitter soon anyway.
The more nuanced yes:
From Curtis' piece on Grantland: In the Trade Rumor Era, the premium currency isn’t really a rumor at all. It’s a genuine scoop, like Stephen A. Smith’s called shot of James, Wade, and Bosh to the Heat in 2010.
The case for caring who breaks the story is really a simple one: That's a reporter's job. To break news. That's what defines a reporter's life. That's what we do. We report on what's happening. The job description is simple: Be first, be right. It's why I've always hated the whole "Better to be second and wrong ..." cliche because it ignores the fact that, as reporters, our job is to be both.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got as a reporter was from Joel Sherman, the great (and under appreciated) columnist for the New York Post. He told me that he always tried to have something new in the paper every day. That kept him plugged in to the team and helped him break big stories, because he was always looking for something new to tell the readers. By breaking little stories, it put him in position to break a big story.
Breaking news, being first on something, that's in your DNA as a reporter. That's how you're judged. That's how you earn promotions and respect. That's how you gain a social-media following, get your stories shared, get branded as an expert. You don't do that with pithy one-liners or interesting commentary. You do that by breaking news.*
(Interesting study: Does the first person to break news on Twitter really get the most retweets and shares?)*
That's even more the case for a lot of mobile-first news apps. In a Twitter exchange I had with some journalists who work for Circa a few weeks ago, they pointed out that speed does matter for them. Circa, as I hope you know, is a great news app that reports news not in what they call "atomized" format - boiling a story down to its essential elements, and updating those elements in real time throughout the day. Users can get push updates when there's new news, and the Circa guys told me on Twitter that the faster they are in breaking news, the more foliow-up they can do:
In the digital world, speed matters. We're in the digital world, so it matters who has it first.
The more nuanced no:
The case against it boils down to two issues: Sharing and the story.
First, sharing: A scoop doesn't have a lifespan anymore. It used to be, you'd break a story in the morning paper and own it that day. It would be yours. Everyone would spend Monday playing catch-up to your story, and you'd already be reporting further down the line. Now, it's literally seconds. You break a story, then Woj and the ESPN guys get their sources on the phone, confirm it, Tweet it ... and you've lost your scoop. You had it for a few minutes. Now, everyone knows the same thing. So who cares who had it first? We know reporters and editors keep score - but do readers?
Second: The story here is where LeBron is going to sign to play. Here's the thing - that's a question that's going to be answered. LeBron will sign a contract, the team will put out a statement, hold a press conference, etc. If you break the story, you're going to break it by (at most) a few hours. So what? What's the real value in having this type of story before the team puts it out? Jay Rosen calls this an ego scoop. "This is where the news would have come out anyway–typically because it was announced or would have been announced–but some reporter managed to get ahead of the field and break it before anyone else. From the user’s point of view, there is zero significance to who got it first."
Contrast this with, say, Woj's story on Monday that LeBron's agent was pushing the Cavs as a serious contender. That's a scoop - that's a story that probably wouldn't come out otherwise, that was the product of excellent reporting and furthered the story. But being the first to break the news of where he's going to play - is that a scoop that really matters?
So ... what say you? Your turn. What do you think: Does it matter who breaks the LeBron James story?