Does breaking a news story first matter anymore?
I was almost completely convinced that, in today’s society, breaking a news story first means absolutely nothing anymore.
With the pace of journalism progressively increasing and continuous updates flowing directly to audiences, readers are receiving information quicker than ever. Sure, news organizations can still break a story, but with every other news outlet capable of having a journalist on the scene within minutes, many news organizations can report the same story soon after.
Often the first organization to break a story has a very small amount advantage over competing news outlets. So why is being the first to break news even important?
On Sept. 16, Deadspin.com published a story about an almost 2-year-old secret recording of Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini criticizing media and fans in a profanity-filled rant. The story put media and fans alike in Nebraska, and beyond, into a frenzy.
And Deadspin broke it. Everybody knew who broke the story, too. Everybody knew exactly where to find the audio.
Within minutes, though, media outlets, primarily in Nebraska, began producing short clips, basically recapping the Deadspin story. Then, as updates became available from University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials and others close to the story, readers began turning their attention to sources reporting those updates.
Sure, Deadspin broke the story, and people inevitably were forced to Deadspin’s site to hear the audio. But as the story unfolded, readers turned heavily toward local media outlets.
Which brings me back to my original question: Was it important that Deadspin broke this article?
No. Deadspin didn’t follow up on this story. Many others did and that’s why people turned their attention away. Reporting the story fully and accurately is what’s important in today’s digital age.
Many media outlets still struggle with this concept, as an interview with NPR media correspondent David Folkenflick states.
Some still feel the pressure to be the first to report on a story. Those pressures can, and often do, lead to inaccuracies, which ultimately harm a journalist’s reputation and a news outlet’s brand.
To deal with those pressures, I think it’s important to remember that breaking a story is not important. Being accurate is important. As Scott Kleinberg, a social media editor at the Chicago Tribune, said during a trip to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln last spring, “Being first is one thing, but being right is everything.”