‘Tis the season to compile “Top Ten” lists: an endless, repetitive force-feeding of all the news events we’ve suffered through over the last year and from which we have only recently managed to recover. OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic. Still, while I might be slightly more critical than Kellyn of these lists, in reading through Politico’s Top Ten political scoops of the year, I don’t appreciate having to once again reconsider the tawdry extramarital dealings of once-presidential hopeful John Edwards, uncovered by those pillars of journalistic excellence, the National Enquirer (who schooled the mainstream press on this).
But while I’m hard-pressed to come up with some better scoops this year, I don’t necessarily think of all of the stories listed as being true “scoops.” Was having Colin Powell announce his endorsement of Barack Obama on “Meet the Press” a scoop for NBC? Maybe, but not a scoop in the way I (as a print journalism dinosaur purist) tend to think of a scoop: a news story no other outlet has, reached through aggressive reporting and analysis, and told based on sources previously overlooked or unused.
In the parlance of broadcast journalism, the Powell endorsement would be considered a “get”: An exclusive interview with a major newsmaker. Without getting bogged down in the semantics of newsroom slang, a “get” is not the same as a “scoop,” and many of the scoops on this list subscribe to the former category, including Katie Couric’s tragicomic interview with Sarah Palin and John McCain’s lack of knowledge regarding the number of houses he owns.
But that doesn’t mean the list doesn’t possess some downright, honest-to-goodness scoops of the kind that make other journalists green with envy, like the New York Times investigative piece on the ties between network TV military analysts and the Defense Department, and fascinating reporting by the Washington Post and The Atlantic on the inner turmoil of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
While these lists are easy to tear down, they’re also fun to read and offer a sense, at the end of the year, of the things the much-maligned press did and didn’t do right this year.
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