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The pain of a missed scoop

So, exactly how many stories does it take to cover the Spitzer resignation? today had five big stories covering everything from the press conference to the identity of the alleged prostitute, as well as two opinion pieces.

That’s a lot of ink on one governor’s shenanigans. Certainly the reverberating shock value of such a precipitous fall of a public figure warrants significant coverage. But the overlapping of facts in the various stories and the dominance of what is, at the end of the day, a New York-state related story on A1, is gratuitous. I suggest the real motivation lies in the detailed piece on the time line of events that led to his downfall.

A telling paragraph:

“Later that day, reporters at The New York Times learned of the unusual presence of three lawyers from the corruption unit, including the boss of that division and an F.B.I. agent from one of the bureau’s public corruption squads. The public corruption units often look at the conduct of elected officials.”

and then:

“Within hours, the reporters were convinced that a significant public figure was involved as a client of the prostitution ring.”

In other words, “We had the story, but didn’t get a chance to break it in print before Spitzer was already organizing his press conference”. It is deflating to have real scoops break before you can get them into the paper, no matter how powerful the online version of your publication is. One reason is that no matter who was first to the story online, few people actually notice it because the story will quickly migrate to other sources. Break it in print, and they all have to link to your story, at least until their own reporting gets into gear. Break it online, and the conventions of attribution are less rigidly adhered to by other media.

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