Is It Really Important to be First with the News?


It is to journalists.

They are obsessed with being first – with getting the “scoop.” It’s a badge of honor in the industry. When I was a newspaper reporter the most important thing was to beat the competition. To beat them to a story. If you got it first it didn’t matter if they got it better.

In fact getting beat by your competition was the fastest way to get in trouble. Fact errors? Not so much. But getting scooped by another newspaper? Trouble. Big trouble.

Ironically, the only people who care about being first are journalists.

Because guess what?

Readers could care less.

I’ve never heard anyone outside of the journalism industry talk about which news organization was the first to break a story.

So it was interest that I read Steve Buttry of Digital First’s blog post about live tweeting and using Twitter during news coverage. The post – which admittedly was aimed at journalists – was mostly concerned about the battle of being first with the news and whether by using Twitter a reporter was alerting his competition to what he was working on.

A big part of the debate was whether a tweet counted as breaking a news story.

There was little discussion about the readers. About how using Twitter to report news is a way to make a better and more interesting experience for them. The subsequent conversation about the post – on Twitter of course – even discussed the revenue implications of tweets vs. website.


A big problem with the news business today is that they too often write and report for their competition rather than for their readers. The audience that gets the focus and the most attention are their rivals. We beat you! We did it better! Are you gnashing your teeth yet?

That mentality further alienates readers. As does all the hand-wringing about views, SEO and revenue generation. That’s the job of the business end of journalism. Journalists should be focused on delivering quality news content to their readers.

And yes that means using Twitter and other social media networks. It’s where large blocks of their readers now find their news. By using Twitter they provide better coverage and a better experience for those readers.

End of story.


You Don’t Tip Competitors on Twitter, You Beat Them (via Steve Buttry)

MediaNation Storify curation of Twitter/Journalist discussion

3 Responses to “Is It Really Important to be First with the News?”

  1. Snoring Dog Studio January 9, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Interesting thoughts. Yes, it does seem that these days the point of the news is less about the point and more about the timing – which, I, too, don’t care at all about. Sometimes, the people who report first have the details all wrong.

  2. It’s true that readers don’t care about who put it out first. However, they do care about who puts it correctly first. If the same organization does that repeatedly, they’ll become a more beloved news outlet than the ones that post info first, fact-check later.

  3. I agree Wherethemindroams. Although getting it wrong a lot does not seem to have diminished audiences for FOX-News.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: