Today on Twitter, I chortled:
… Not that I’m gloating, of course. I’m just saying, even a blind hog, etc….
And I wouldn’t gloat because, well, it doesn’t mean much.
To begin with, as news goes, it didn’t mean much to me. I’m not really big on the “size of the warchest” horserace stuff in politics, I just wanted to mention having chatted with Steve as one of my routine “contact reports” (I mean, I went to the meeting, so I might as well say something about it), and so I threw out that tidbit — in passing.
I haven’t talked with Adam at the paper, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he heard it the same day I did, but wanted to run down whether it really was a record or not, but then someone decided after a couple of days that he’d better just go ahead and report what he had. But that’s just conjecture on my part. Or maybe, just maybe, he was waiting to see a document rather than just reporting what Steve said, which would be the responsible thing. In any case, it’s not like it was earth-shattering news that you HAD to hear right away.
The reason I raise this now is to say that you will sometimes read things here on this blog before you see them in the paper, and while it might mean the paper’s falling down on its job, it doesn’t necessarily. What brings this point to mind was reading Lee’s comment back here, when he said:
The Free Times, a give-away weekly in Columbia, has plenty of ads, and more in depth coverage of local government than The State. In fact, it has broken many stories of waste and corruption which The State either missed or sat on.
Here’s the thing about that… I don’t want to take anything away from The Free Times, but I will say that if they didn’t have a scoop now and then, there’d be something wrong with them — regardless of how good a job The State is doing.
Here’s why: One newsman worth his salt can always find something that the newsroom with 100 people isn’t writing about. One of the most enviable positions in journalism is to be a one-man bureau in another paper’s town. Given the fact that the largest news organization in the world, and the best one in the world, is only going to cover more than a fraction of the thousands, or millions, of things going on in a given coverage area, you can always hit ’em where they ain’t.
And if you’d like to create the impression that they’re falling down on the job and only you are telling folks what is truly going on, all you have to do is beat them on one fairly significant development about once a year or so. That’s because nobody notices the thousands of times they beat YOU (many times a day, usually), because they’re supposed to beat you. It’s also because no one expects YOU to cover everything. And of course, nobody CAN cover everything, but the dominant local medium catches hell for anything significant that it misses, because it’s supposed to at least give the impression of covering everything of significance. Whereas if you’re the one-man operation, you can work on your one story, the one you hope will be a scoop, and ignore everything else — and no one will think the worse of you.
If I went to New York, I could do it to The New York Times. If Burl, who has spent his whole career in Hawaii, came to Columbia, he could do it to The State. So can I. I just did, without trying…
The dominant local medium always plays defense; you’re always on offense. The big paper never “wins” but occasionally you do — and when you do, folks like Lee are ready to damn the paper for its “failure.” And I say that not to criticize Lee; I’ve heard that many, many times from nice, smart people who are really upset that their paper didn’t have the story first. Sometimes they’re right to feel that way. But sometimes they’re not.