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Some musings on scoops and the people who get them

Jan 20, 2011, 4:00 PM EDT


Beyond the Box score has a chart up today tracking which baseball reporters got the most transactions scoops this winter.  Ken Rosenthal leads the pack. Jon Heyman is second. You’ll recognize all the other names based on reading “So and so reports …” posts here and elsewhere.  It’s a relatively small group of men and women who spend a lot of time on that beat.

I never gave much thought to scoops until I got a couple of random ones myself, and since then I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out what they really mean, if anything.  On the one hand it’s kind of thrilling to break news, even if it’s small news like a player signing. People talk about you a bit. You get some clicks. You feel like a big man for a while.  On the other hand, the vast, vast majority of baseball fans don’t know and frankly don’t care who got the scoop. They just want to know who’s playing shortstop. I’d guess that there are no more than a couple hundred people in America who can tell you who got what transaction off the top of their head and really care about it, and that may be overestimating.

Having dabbled in scoopdom, I have a much, much greater respect for what the Ken Rosenthals, Jon Heymans and Buster Olenys of the world do for a living. It’s hard. It’s humbling too.  But at the end of the day, it’s not always easy to get your arms around exactly what it is you’ve done.  Someone who knew something told me about it, and I reported it. I feel like I’ve done good, but what is it?  I let the small handful of readers who care about reading things first know about it first. But long gone are the days when a scoop gave you a story for an entire day. Now anything you report — unless you have a ton of exclusive background information — is all subsumed by the tweets and blog posts of others spreading the news within minutes.

But it’s not nothing either. I gained someone’s trust, which came from some combination of previous good work or a personal relationship.  Other people trusted me enough to credit me when I reported it.  There’s something good there.  I’ve only broken a few stories, but each time I did, someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in my page views has said “good work” or has otherwise considered it worthy.

It’s a weird little world. To the extent I’ve talked with other people who work in it — and here I mean the player transaction beat specifically, not general reporting — they kind of agree.  I don’t know that I have any answers about what it all means and whether it’s significant.  Maybe I would if I had more scoops.

But then we just begin this analysis back at the beginning and start over, don’t we?

  1. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jan 20, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    Are bragging rights involved? Do reporters say to other reporters that they are way cooler for breaking more stories? Is there a coolness ranking based on scoop count? Is it truly a scoop that is “breaking” if it is a meaningless signing?

  2. mgflolox - Jan 20, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    Hardball Talk – “When The News Breaks, We Fix It”.

  3. 18thstreet - Jan 20, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    I really don’t care who gets it first. I can absolutely wait until there’s a press conference announcing the signing.

    Journalism, as a profession, seems to place a higher value on getting it first, rather than getting it right.

    You’re being very polite Craig, but — let’s face it — scoops are worthless.

    • Utley's Hair - Jan 20, 2011 at 5:07 PM

      I’m inclined to think that your opinion on scoops is in the minority. After all, if people felt the same way, why would the whole interwebs based journalism field get so many hits and look-sees? And based on what I have seen, a vast majority (albeit sans staistics and research to back it up), of news breaks correctly, with a few marked exceptions (i.e., the car explosion at the state department on 9/11, among other things).

      I’m not saying your feelings are wrong (opinions being the definition of subjectivity), just not widely held.

      • 18thstreet - Jan 20, 2011 at 5:18 PM

        Really, is there any reason we couldn’t wait a couple of days to find out that Andruw Jones signed with the Yankees? Wouldn’t it be better if media resources were put toward analysis that you see on fangraphs?

        Jon Heyman, for all that effort, still thinks Jack Morris deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 20, 2011 at 5:52 PM

        We don’t live in a society built for delayed gratification.

        I personally don’t care if Jones is wearing the blue pinstripes, but if there’s something there, I’ll read about it. The Cliff Lee scoop, on the other hand, had me awake just about all night.

      • larryhockett - Jan 21, 2011 at 10:45 AM

        We all want to know the news quickly, that’s true. What we don’t care about it is who had it first. I’m with 18thstreet in that I’m sick of the enormous value the journalism industry places on getting it first. Time and again that leads to terrible standards in accurate and verifiable reporting. Just as Craig said, within minutes after the “scoop” it will be everywhere so please worry more about getting it right than getting it first because we care about the former a lot, we couldn’t care less about the latter.

  4. Tim's Neighbor - Jan 20, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    I would guess that on the other end, those giving the scoops might think it thrilling as well.

  5. sportsdrenched - Jan 20, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    I only care about this in so much, as I know who to follow on Twitter. That’s it. Other than that I don’t really care. It’s a reporters job to report.

    I’ll read about any implication in SI, or from the local beat reporters.

  6. Joe - Jan 20, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    Scoops mean nothing to me. You’re reporting in December who’s going to be playing shortstop in April. It’s not going to bother me much if I don’t find out immediately.

  7. sportsdrenched - Jan 20, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    Craig, do you ever wear that hat in public?

    • Old Gator - Jan 20, 2011 at 10:12 PM

      Isn’t that the one Mike Celizic left him?

  8. Adam - Jan 21, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    Scoops are why I didn’t work out when I was a news reporter. I really didn’t care if I got it or not for the exact reasons you mentioned. I felt that if I reported it better than the person who got the scoop then I’d done my job. My personality doesn’t lend itself to needing to be the first to do something, so my hat is off to those who are willing to burn the midnight oil to get that story.

    I would think, especially in today’s age, scoops are huge for page views and, ergo, money. Since journalism (which does include blogs like this) still requires you to cite the original source, page views can skyrocket like never before. In the past, with just newspapers, most people weren’t going to go out and buy your paper after the fact because you’d broken something. Now I might click on the link here to go read the initial report because it costs me what, 5 seconds?

  9. Panda Claus - Jan 21, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    Scoops are for ice cream, jai alai and cat litter. OK, maybe the name of some mascot at a division 3 college too. End of story.

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