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Scoops vs. news

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Joe Williams, Sep 12, 2007.

  1. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Thread elsewhere on ESPN's Mort and his "batting average" made me wonder about this:

    What is an acceptable "batting average" for a reporter, in terms of breaking news and possibly being wrong? If you get a lot of stories first but every 10th one turns out to be incomplete, overstated or flat-out untrue, is that .900 better than somebody who is more cautious, might be first on only two or three stories in same time frame, but is never, ever wrong? What if it's .700? Or .500?

    Let's assume that two reporters are neck-and-neck in most other ways, like writing ability, interviewing skills, knack for crafting a feature or an analysis.

    Is being first with something an important enough value that you'll accept being wrong every so often? Or should we make sure we're not wrong, first and foremost, and then try to be first when we can with accurate stories? I'm thinking that, when you factor in rumored trades, alleged contract talks and purported draft scenarios, there are a lot of folks who -- if we really were keeping score -- would be in that .500 range or worse.

    Does that matter? Should that matter? Would one way get you fired at the NY Post and the other way get you fired at the NY Times?
     
  2. joe king

    joe king Active Member

    Accuracy is No. 1. Always. If it isn't, you might want to reconsider calling yourself a journalist.

    I love being first, but I'd rather be right. Wrong is unacceptable.
     
  3. jakewriter82

    jakewriter82 Active Member

    What if there's no clearly defined "truth"?
    What's true when something goes to print can end up being false by the next morning, depending on the issue. Coaches can change their minds, ADs can have a change of heart, players can do something totally against what they were reported doing....
    I'd think you have to consider those types of circumstances when compiling "batting averages" for reporters. You can't always fault the reporter when that happens.
     
  4. Dan Rydell

    Dan Rydell Guest

    It's like fielding percentage in baseball. You definitely wanna be up there at .975 or so.

    Those errors will bug ya.
     
  5. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    But some fielders cut down on their errors by short-arming tough chances. Don't try to touch the ball, can't get an error. Like a point guard obsessed with his assists-to-turnovers ratio, who makes no tough passes, only easy ones, ends up not playing aggressively.

    Then again, we all know folks in our business who throw all sorts of recruiting or trade rumors against the wall, often from unnamed sources. When one of them actually happens, they say, "See, I had it!" while forgetting about the four or five they "reported" that never happened at all. Unless you're patched into a conference call with the key people, how do you know your source doesn't have his own agenda in claiming "Team A is shopping Joe Blow?" If that isn't true, it still can make needless work for the competition, especially when talk radio and the Internet whip it into something even louder.
     
  6. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    We had what we thought was a scoop on a coaching hire that turned out not to be the guy, but his assistant coach.

    Bad poop from a trusted source. The proverbial "right church, wrong pew." Mortifying as all get-out, but hell, you gotta get right back up on that horse.
     
  7. You are always going to get some wrong, because people will lie to you or something will just change.
    However, I'd say you err on the side of caution. I'd rather be late and right than first and wrong, in every situation.
     
  8. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I'd say if you are flat wrong about a story in which you used anonymous sources, you get about 2-3 per career .

    Otherwise, stop printing speculative BS.
     
  9. Moland Spring

    Moland Spring Member

    Also remember that if a story is high-profile -- and that's what we're talking about -- the act of reporting the news often changes it. And every tries to report what "will" happen or what "is expected to" happen, etc. Someone's decision might change after stuff they assumed would stay private becomes public. So often, a story is accurate when it was reported, then the truth changes as the day (or hour) goes on. I assume this happened with Mort (who is one of the most accurate national guys). On a doctor's first opinion, he reported a separation for Eli, which takes a month. He didn't wait for the second (and apparently more accurate) opinion, which is week-to-week.
     
  10. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Guess that's what I'm getting at, this aspect of predicting the future that gets passed off as news. Some people play very fast and loose with the unnamed sources and then simply claim that "my story changed the situation." Uh huh.

    Wish more outlets would go with "could" rather than "will be _____, according to sources" when it comes to the tea leaves stuff. If Coach Sisboombah tells you he's going to resign when he meets with the athletic director tomorrow, maybe "will" is appropriate. If a pal of Coach Sisboombah tells you that but requires anonymity, and ol' Coach won't respond, I'd be more cautious about predicting that news.
     
  11. I'd rather be right than first. Always.
     
  12. Rockbottom

    Rockbottom Active Member

    I wonder if Moland Spring can relate to this ... :)

    rb
     
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