A Toronto Sun columnist made some comments on the weekend about the use of the word “exclusive” by media and the 24-hour-news channels’ purported penchant for claiming they’ve broken stories that were already cracked by someone else.
Rob Granastein’s full column is here: http://www.torontosun.com/2011/06/24/exclusive-column-read-me He calls out Toronto media, including his own publication, for the over-use of phrases that indicate a story scoop because some of the stories aren’t scoops at all. I agree with him in some respects. Not so long ago a talk show host was touting an interview with our Prime Minister, during the federal election campaign, as an “exclusive”. I suggested it was actually a one-on-one. When the PM is meeting with media all over the country and is more available than ever, and he’s not handing over a scoop such as, ‘I’m dropping out of the race’ or, ‘My Mother was a fem-bot’, it’s not an exclusive. But it’s also not a scrum so that makes it a one-on-one; the host should claim ownership to all of the questions but he can’t say he’s the only one who’ll get such an interview.
I don’t like it (and who does?) when friends whose work I respect are called out in a major publication and Granatstein has done that in the column. Taking tweets of the day was an easy, fresh target. He could have dug a little deeper and found newspaper examples but he chose not to, except for a very recent one from the Toronto Star. Print has traditionally, largely ignored broadcast media as a viable source until there’s something negative to tout.
I think his (and the Sun’s) use of the phrase “as told to (us)” as an example of bragging about a scoop, is flawed. I have used “so-and-so told us” simply to indicate that we talked to whomever. It doesn’t mean they didn’t tell anybody else. But if we took the time to track the person down and ask them a question, I’m going to give us credit for getting the answer. It’s not bragging; it’s simply the truth. However the whole, “as you heard here”first is usually just so much b.s. in my humble opinion. It’s clutter that a listener doesn’t usually appreciate. They just want you to get to the story and stop congratulating yourself for doing your job.
He is right that “exclusive” and other scoop-indicating words are over-used but it’s tough out there and I’m confident that a case can be made for each occasion except where it was a mistake, as in the example of the talk show host. And that mistake was an innocent one. As soon as it was pointed out to him, he stopped saying it because he agreed it was inaccurate. It’s an imperfect world and the pressure is on. Assignment editors, reporters and anchors on the job are busier than you can imagine and sometimes a quick gut feeling has to guide them through the maze of moving stories. And if you want to be number one, and everybody does, you’ve got to be loud and proud when you do get one of those elusive – er, exclusive scoops.