The Conceptual Scoop AKA the way they used to do it back in the day....
June 20, 2007 8:29 AM   Subscribe

"A smart story often does contain new facts," Bennett explains. "But just as often it takes facts that are lying in plain sight and synthesizes them, or arranges them in a way — sometimes in a narrative — that really exposes some new meaning on an important subject. And I think that's a conceptual scoop." (via ATC)
posted by photoslob (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

From the NPR link:
"The Boston Globe noticed something rather striking, however. Away from the cameras and microphones, White House aides sometimes quietly release written statements saying the president has the right to ignore all or part of the laws he's just signed — and often just praised. In fact, the Globe found that the Bush White House has asserted that right not just occasionally, but more than 750 times. It's one of the cornerstones of the administration's claim of the primacy of executive power in government.

Bennett says stories like the Globe's 'signing statement' scoop revealed something that was happening in plain view, but was essentially invisible because no one had bothered to connect the dots."
In today's news:
Congress to investigate Bush’s signing statements.

"After a recent GAO report found that federal agencies ignored 30 percent of the laws President Bush objected to in signing statements last year, lawmakers now 'say they plan to dig deeper into the Bush administration’s use of bill-signing statements as ways to circumvent Congressional intent.' Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said that “their next step would be to explore the signing statements to determine the broad extent of their impact.'"
posted by ericb at 8:45 AM on June 20, 2007

There's an idea worth chewing on in here: that newspapers will remain relevant if they learn how to synthesize current events in useful ways. I know I pick up my abysmal local CanWest rag every day in the vain hope it will have something unexpected to say about anything. (I mean, good god, even the Calgary Herald's hockey columnists just repeat the same "analysis" being offered by the guy who's had one too many Big Rocks at the next stool.) Packaging and reconfiguring the news seems to me to be what the British papers (e.g. The Observer) do very well.

On the other hand, any argument that cites Jennifer 8. Lee's excremental "man-date" invent-a-trend reporting as an example of the way forward has, to my mind, missed the mark.

Anyone remember the Bloom County plotline where Opus becomes the "style" reporter, produces a piece called "America's All Agog Over Eggnog," and winds up getting kickbacks from the American Eggnog Council? Well, Jennifer 8. Lee can only aspire to the journalistic integrity of that delightful cartoon penguin.
posted by gompa at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2007

Don't other media do precisely this also? Bloggers do this. TV reporters (could) do this with their subject-report specials. Why do you need to be in print to have this kind of story? I think it's just a coincidence of print being a self-targeting medium for people willing to read >300 words.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:42 AM on June 20, 2007

That "man-date" piece was both bizarre and ridiculous. The NY Times was clearly infected by The Onion.
posted by zemblamatic at 9:50 AM on June 20, 2007

OMG, gompa, that man-date article might the most ridiculous newspaper article I've ever read. That the reporter's name is "Jennifer *. Lee" is a tiny insane cherry on top of that deranged banana split of an article. I'm all agog over eggnog.

Fortunately there's a 200-comment thread full of MeFi snark available to help purge my brain.
posted by straight at 10:00 AM on June 20, 2007

Gee, I thought this was just what investigative reporters in all media were supposed to do. I guess good reporting is so rare these days that examples of reporters who do it indicate a novel trend. Sad.
posted by tippiedog at 10:12 AM on June 20, 2007

I agree with the FPP 100%. The more I use the Internet, the more I value and read professional writing. Narrative is not just a flashy extra, it engages the mind, creates lasting memories, and encourages reading more. Investigative journalists who can sythensize complex subjects in a compelling narrative and say something new are very valuable, I have no problem seeing them get paid, it would be a disaster if "free culure" took that away by forcing newspapers to scale back or close.
posted by stbalbach at 10:18 AM on June 20, 2007

I think the story of the US Attorney firings is a good example of "evidence synthesis" that has been re-invigorated by blogs. Talking Points Memo did a great job of following the different threads of that story. I believe their success was due in one part to the large readership able to contribute information, and another part to actually devoting money from the site to hiring reporters to do exactly this kind of work. That story is as important, if not more so, as Watergate.
posted by one_bean at 10:24 AM on June 20, 2007

Goddamnit, how many times do I have to say it?! - 51% is not a mandate! It's just a crush. I can't quit you, Hegemony!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:25 AM on June 20, 2007

The only way I get useful information from the news these days is to listen to and read every story I can, then cross-reference them and look at implications and trends.
posted by SaintCynr at 11:49 AM on June 20, 2007

The piece sets up this mainstream print/mainstream television and Web dichotomy without even mentioning other sources. This is exactly the area where the mainstream media, print or not, don't have an advantage. Bloggers are doing this kind of thing as well or better -- relying, most of the time, on the actual facts reported by the mainstream media. Newspaper reporters have time, access, resources and motivation that allow them to obtain stories that the amateurs can't. But their writing and analytic skills are no better than those of many bloggers. There are a lot more people who want to do this kind of thing and are very good at it than there are jobs, let alone jobs that don't go to the editor's best friends.
posted by transona5 at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2007

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