Hey, reporters! Slow down, you move too fast …

Reporter!So says Amy Sullivan at The New Republic, drawing heavily upon the CNN/Fox “oopsie” with the health care verdict:

I know I’m often out-of-the-loop when it comes to journalism norms and conventions, but this one honestly confounds me. Has any publication ever received a Pulitzer for being the first to report a major announcement? Is there some secret reward at stake—free cookies for a year? A trip to Hawaii? Do colleagues buy you a drink to congratulate you on beating the other networks by ten seconds?

Sullivan quite rightly distinguishes between a “scoop” in the sense of “the money trail that connected the Watergate break-ins to the White House” and a “scoop” in the sense of “hey, I learned 10 seconds before this other dude that Romney is picking Ross Perot to be his running mate.”*

To which Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith tells AdWeek

Scoops matter, in part, because they are typically a product of being deeply sourced in your beat, and good beat reporters get them almost as a by-product of good beat reporting.

To which someone who warned about the dangers of hyperspeed many years ago said:

Bullshit. Scoops are just as often a product of being in tight with your source, either through careful psychological maneuvers or being completely biased toward their point of view. 

But that’s a little off-topic. Sullivan has responded to the critics (all of whom are apparently journalists who take a lot of pride in being “first”):

It was obviously once a matter of pride that has now become the expectation for every story, big and small. That may be good for business, but I still say it’s not good for journalism. And I still don’t care who yells “first!” in the giant comments section that is modern journalism.

Jeff Jarvis, someone with whom I don’t always agree, came up with a quote worth remembering in the wake of the original crisis:

Journalists must think how they can best add value to information, not how they can most rapidly repeat it.

Andrew Sullivan was quick to criticize Sullivan, but as he so often does, he has continued into a reasonable discussion. (You know, the sort of thing we don’t get in “news” these days.)

* As far as I know, Romney is NOT picking Ross Perot to be his running mate. This is a hypothetical. You didn’t just Tweet otherwise, did you?


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