How To Scoop The U.S. Press Corps

By | July 9, 2004

Perhaps we journalists need better tools to find out the stories we’re looking for.

According to Ed Cone, a posting on an aviation website late on Monday may have been the first evidence of the Kerry/Edwards tie-up: A poster to the US Airways forum called ‘aerosmith’ said he/she had spotted John Kerry’s plane in a Pittsburgh hangar, where “John Edwards’ decals were being put on engine cowlings and upper fuselage”. The time: 9:44 PM. (11.45 PM EDT)

Unfortunately the poster, a US Airways employee called Bryan Smith, wasn’t allowed to take a photo, which would have erased any doubt, but confirmation appeared to come from another poster, ‘Prince of PAWOBs’ (PAWOB, in flying lingo is a Passenger Arriving With Out Bag), who posted a few hours later that he/she had heard “North Ramp control on 130.775 Mhz talking to another aircraft about it tonight”.

Ironically, within a few hours The New York Post was hitting the streets with its own ‘scoop’ about Gephardt. The first mainstream journalist to report Kerry’s correct selection was Andrea Mitchell on NBC’s “Today” show at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday — eight hours after aerosmith’s posting. Here are AP’s version and UPI’s version of the aerosmith story.

There’s a lot of talk about blogs being the Next Journalism, and I for one believe that that is how a lot of folk are going to get, already getting, their news. It’s a great development, and I don’t worry that people get wrong information: Time will weed out the good stuff from the bad. But maybe there’s a broader lesson here, especially for us journalists. There are other ways to research stories and find scoops than the obvious political channels and sources. This time around it was an obscure website for flying enthusiasts.

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