Writing for the excellent Still No Cheering In The Pressbox project , Wright Thompson praised the idea of The Scoop:
“The greatest sentence in the history of newspapers: University X will announce the hiring of coach Y at a 2 p.m. press conference today. That’s the greatest sentence in the entire world.”
Writing about cityside journalism on Gawker, Sam Stecklow argued that the idea of The Scoop isn't as irrelevant as it should be
Last year, financial journalist and Willy Wonka impersonator Felix Salmon said at a journalism conference that scoops are “the most masturbatory things journalists do. The reader couldn’t give a flying fuck who broke it.” He is correct; the only people that care about such arbitrary designations are the reporters and editors that get them and the reporters and editors that do not. The internet made the “scoop” irrelevant. This has been obvious for a very long time.
The value of The Scoop - breaking a story - is one of those topics that's always being debated in journalism nerd circles. On one side is the traditional argument that the scoop is the goal, the pinnacle of real journalism, the legacy of Woodward and Bernstein. On the other side is the more digital-centric argument that since news is shared quickly online these days, the value of The Scoop has virtually disappeared.
Certainly, The Scoop isn't what it used to be. A scoop used to be when you had a story in the morning paper that no one else did, and it would be hours before your competition would respond. And I tell you, that is the best feeling in the world as a reporter. But that almost never happens now. News is online and live. As soon as news is reported, your competition is sharing it, confirming it themselves and moving the story forward. A scoop can last seconds.
One thing I leaned in my dissertation - and it's a focus of my ongoing research - is that more and more sports journalists are focusing less and less on the so-called Scoop Scoreboard. Rather than caring so much about breaking news (especially trasnactional news), they're trying to focus more on analysis, on providing details and moving the story forward.
But I want to make the argument that The Scoop does still matter for sports journalism. This isn't to say that it should matter. Only that it does. And it's two reasons:
1. Professional currency.
Stecklow is right. Only editors and reporters care who breaks stories, who gets The Scoop. But editors and reporters are ones who hire people, who make decisions who gets promoted, who gets the big beats and the big salaries. And one of the things that will get a young reporter noticed and promoted is a portfolio of breaking news.
Gary Parrish articulated this idea perfectly on his radio show a few months ago (starts at the 25-minute mark). So did Tim Graham, when I interviewed him in December about his coverage of the sale of the Buffalo Bills:
But when it came time for the Pegulas to seal the deal, the closer it got to completion, the more nervous I got that one of the national guys was going to find a way to get that story first. I wanted to be the one who broke the news to the Buffalo Bills fans that the Pegulas had bought their team and their team was staying. So no matter how dominant I may have been in covering that story if I didn’t see it at the finish line or cross the finish line first, than that would have really bothered me. Now, part of it is ego. But I think the biggest part of it is I write for the Buffalo Bills fans and I want to be the one to give them their information
Also, as someone who teaches journalism, I like the aggressive mindset The Scoop promotes. Certainly, there's incredible journalistic value in aggregation. But I want to teach my students to always be aggressive and assertive, to try to get news first rather than waiting for someone else to get it and rely on linking to it. Joel Sherman at the NY Post gave me great advice that I've repeated here often because I like it so much: Try to have something new in the paper every day. That way, your radar is always up and you tend to find and break big stories.
2. Fans care.
Kind of. I think.
Here's the thing: This is the crux of The Scoop Is Dead school. Readers don't care. They don't care who broke a story first. It only matters in the circle of journalism, and in this digital age, readers just don't care who broke the story.
And that may be true.
But I'm not sure it is.
I want to be careful with what I say here. This is an issue I want to do research on, and I don't want to appear like I have my conclusion in mind before I study it. But I do think fans kind of care who break news. I think they may not say so when interviewed or in a survey. But I see it anecdotally on Twitter, when local reporters are mocked for never breaking news like national reporters.
I see it in the fact that ESPN's NFL scoop machine Adam Schefter has the most followers of any NFL reporter - and I'm sure it's because he breaks transactional more transactional news than anyone. I see it in the fact that nearly a million NBA fans follow Adrian Wojnarowski and that the phrase "Woj Bomb" exists.
We may not want fans to care about The Scoop. They may not realize that they do care. But the numbers and the behavior suggests that, at least in a way, they do care.
Maybe the idea of The Scoop is given to much importance in journalism circles. In fact, it probably is. But to say it doesn't matter, I think, misses the fact that it is still important - whether we want it to be or not.