It was sometimes a source of tension between me and my editors at The Stranger, but as both a blogger and a “real” (i.e. paid) journalist, I’ve always tried to resist the urge to scoop—and I’ve always resented the occasional demand from other journalists that I somehow owe them a public hat tip for “breaking” a story that I could’ve broken first if I wasn’t so busy making sure I got my words and analysis (and, sure, facts) right.
This has nothing to do with journalistic ethics; I don’t even claim to know all the rules, let alone adhere to them faithfully. I’m just more interested in adding value than being first. That’s what bloggers do. Of course, I’d rather be first. But the only scoops I’m truly proud of are the ones I made by virtue of seeing a story where others did not.
Perhaps had the New York Times embraced the same sentiment, they might have averted an embarrassing shit show like this:
Second, in its rush to publish what it clearly viewed as a major scoop, the Times relied on questionable sourcing and went ahead without bothering to seek corroborating evidence that could have supported its allegation.
In our conversations with the Times reporters, it was clear that they had not personally reviewed the IG’s referral that they falsely described as both criminal and focused on Hillary Clinton. Instead, they relied on unnamed sources that characterized the referral as such. However, it is not at all clear that those sources had directly seen the referral, either. This should have represented too many “degrees of separation” for any newspaper to consider it reliable sourcing, least of all The New York Times.
To be clear, the New York Times libeled Hillary Clinton, and were she not a public figure the paper would be facing a multi-million dollar settlement as the price of their negligence. And it all resulted from their prideful pursuit of a scoop.
The irony is, in the Internet age, nobody really gives a shit who was first. The way I experienced it, the story first broke on Twitter. But everybody now knows who broke the news by breaking it wrong.