You remember the old saw: what if a tree fell in the forest and nobody heard it? Well, today I’m asking the question: what if you’re a blogger who publishes a national news scoop and nobody knows?
I don’t normally consider myself a blogger who creates hard news stories. But last week, I published a post here which was a scoop: Steve Jobs Loses Fight to Demolish Historic Landmark. On December 28th, a California Superior Court judge turned down Steve Jobs application to tear down the Daniel Jackling House, a historic residence in Woodside, CA. He’d been fighting Uphold Our Heritage (UOH), a historic preservation group established to fight for the home’s survival, for over a year. The group’s founder informed me of the court ruling on December 28th. I first published my post on December 30th. I wrote to a good number of media sites including the San Jose Mercury News, the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Times (my local paper, where I know the assistant editor for business) querying their interest in my story. My friend was the only one who replied and he declined the story saying he didn’t think it “was up his alley.”
Shortly after I published, UOH’s founder invited Peter Slatin over to dinner. He publishes a real estate blog at Forbes.com. Slatin published the first mainstream media story on Jobs’ court defeat on January 4th. Shortly thereafter, AP picked up the story. I just checked Google News and 100 media outlets now have the story. And guess who finally published: the San Jose Mercury News! That’s the tale of my scoop that never was.
Scores of people are coming to my site as a result of those Google News links, but very indirectly. Google News isn’t referring them to my site. Google Images has crawled my photos of Jackling House. That’s what’s bringing them to me. Google web search isn’t even drawing many visitors. I feel like a blog news prophet without honor in my own country.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere. I’ve learned a few of my own. First, I’ve asked Google News to include my blog as one of their news sources. I hope they’ll respond favorably to my request. Second, I think this shows that many reporters rely on news wires like AP to tell them what’s newsworthy instead of relying on their own judgment and sources. Third, mainstream media continue to look askance at blogs as legitimate news sources. I’m sure MSM does look to blogs for generating some stories. But in the borderline areas that this story was in journalistically, reporters probably weren’t willing to see this as newsworthy until it’d been validated by one of their own, AP.
I think that’s unfortunate. Of course I say that for selfish reasons as no journalist or blogger wishes to see their scoop relegated to the dustbin of news history. But there’s a more serious point here. At least the story I was covering did get picked up. But think of the thousands or even tens of thousands of stories that bloggers may generate which are truly newsworthy, but not in the eyes of mainstream journalists.
Just think about that national scoop I offered my friend at the Seattle Times. I wonder if he’s having any second thoughts.