Storyful: “There is no such thing as a scoop, just a story before its inflection point.”

Here’s a locally scribed manifesto for the future of the news from Mark Little (et al) from Storyful which puts its finger on a ‘reporting failure’ which manifests itself all over ‘big journalism’ (here and abroad):

We believe every story starts with a single voice, not a conversation in a newsroom. There is no such thing as a scoop, just a story before its inflection point. Storyful’s golden rule is there is ALWAYS someone closer to the story.

Real-time storytelling needs eternal values but also a new currency. Apps and algorithms will play their part but the basic units will be human intelligence and community.

Amen to that. Having revisited my Twitter stream after several months on a break, I suspect it delivers to the desktop all the difficulties of the conventional newsroom: too much, way too soon. Real news comes from describing in emmense detail the  particular (the Saxon’s called it weird – or wyrd), not the general quarry.

We need less, not more, hunting in packs which tends to be destructive rather than constructively tell us what’s actually going. (Time for another advert for our search for new Media categories in this year’s Slugger Awards).

  • mopphead


  • Brian Walker

    Interesting from Mick the Philosopher who is a different charcter from any Mick the Hold The Front Page News Editor. Did the laws of thermodynamics exist before they were propounded or were they always sitting there, waiting to be found out? There’s no answer to that.

    A scoop is a Big Story the professionals report before the other guys and is still defined by edition times. (I Broke It First).

    With 24/7 newsgathering and citizen journalism the idea is blurring – you’re lucky now to have a 15 minute ” bead,” The newbreak”is a lesser category. The outlet is simply saying we’re able to put it out now that the previous item is finished. not that it’s original. Once news orgs were reluctant to report someone else’s scoop until they were able to add to it ( often thinly) and credit it to their rivals.

    Now everybody lifts and credits by agreement of they think the story stands up.

    But the concept of “News” remains dynamic baaed on firece competition and the right to know.. On the one hand, you’re right, premature release can damage the story. On the other hand the rush to publish, while it has a low competitive motive, also makes the higher assumption of saying, the reader has a right to know as soon as I do and why haven’t we all known about it sooner?

    “Immense detail?” Take Watergate. Imnense unfolding detail yes, but also a single smoking gun.

    ” Hunting in packs?” Mmm. A pejorative description for good reasons sometimes but not always a bad thing. The Telegraph had a goldmine of scoops over MPs expenses but others followed up well – in packs? (Although against myself, I’d say the scandal was overdone. But then, the media can always take the counterintuitive route to create another angle).

    How you view it depends a good deal on whether you’re on the outside being reflective or itching to join the pack.

  • Brian Walker

    p.s. Just to save others looking it up –

    “In differential calculus, an inflection point, point of inflection, or inflection (inflexion) is a point on a curve at which the curvature changes sign. The curve changes from being concave upwards (positive curvature) to concave downwards (negative curvature), or vice versa. If one imagines driving a vehicle along a winding road, inflection is the point at which the steering-wheel is momentarily “straight” when being turned from left to right or vice versa.”

    “Wow!” My old news editor never knew that. ( “Cigarette me”, said Hildy).

  • There’s something amiss with the Fealty typos this fine morning, even if I catch the direction of his drift.

    I’ve said this elsewhere in the last couple of days (on that “blogging birds” thread if I correctly recall): there has to be a spark to set the heather alight. The Heather was Ms Brooke on the Conway affair. In that case some assiduous digging dished the dirt deservedly on dung-heaps of dodgy doo-dah, and out of that came the whole expenses kerfuffle to pre-occupy UK politics for over a year.

    That, to me, is the true “investigative journalist” setting the agenda; and (with the exceptions of being the lucky one on the scene of the accident, or the recipient of a major “leak”) the best way to a “scoop”. Those of us of a certain generation were indoctrinated by the myth of “Woodstein” and persuaded by that glossy film adaptation to forget that there were not other journos from the New York Times and elsewhere also on the same scent.

    Which all adds up to that Hie wyrd forsweop on Grendles gryre [“Fate sweeps them into Grendel’s grasp”]. For wyrd is more than Fealty’s attempt at a secular modernising: it always implies an external force beyond human control, the power of destiny, of fate. Which is the mystic element which makes a good story (factual, fictional or journalistic) great.

  • Rory Carr

    While left enthralled by Malcolm Redfellow’s grasp of Anglo-Saxon and his eagle-eyed oversight of Mick’s typos we are left rather disappointed by his imperfect grasp of American slang.

    A man who is unable to tell his doo-doos (fecal matter) from his doo-dahs (a vocal inflection in popular music first recorded in Song of the South…”Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay etc….” and later popularised in the name of the British pop group, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band) might be better sticking to Anglo-Saxon as indeed we are all prone to do when someone else points to a howler we might inadvertently have committed.

  • Brian, I think this be a more apt definition: “A moment of dramatic change, especially in the development of a company, industry, or market.” – or story. I think the curvature change is more gradual.

  • Young Rory Carr may happily wallow in his deep doo-doo. He will find the literary usage dates only from the late-50’s, with Thomas Berger’s Crazy in Berlin: Is Pound going to start that awful Cook’s Tour doodoo again?

    Old Malcolm, however, sticks with his doo-dah, which doesn’t have the same scatological weight. More-over doo-dah pre-dates Berger, and is sanctified by the Great Plum: Poor old Clarence was patently all of a doodah [Pigs have Wings].

    Allowing for some phonetic spelling, TE Lawrence refers to The old lady next me in the underground wore a flippant skirt, all doo-dahs, and elsewhere in the same text to A bit of a kid done up, in trousers with do-da’s danging on ’em [both from Salt].

    To complete the trio of worthy authorities, Priestley has one of his Good Companions in a tizz: I don’t care if a man’s been fifty years in the business, there’s the same old thrill comes back. Opening night — all of a doodah!

    [No Oxford English Dictionary was greatly damaged in the composition of this piece.]

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The Heather Brooke case is interesting. Journos particuarly lobby hacks were too close to the expenses story to actually know that there was a story. Seeing a story and recognising it are two very different things.
    Its not just a matter of lobby journos being wined and dined by MP contacts and failing to get that the Voters were picking up the tab. As a MP paid the bill washe never tempted to tell a journo friend “this is the sweet life…..have another glass of wine”
    But the expenses story was really given life by journalists OUTSIDE the political sphere.
    Rather like stories about Premiership footballers and managers are run by “news” journos…….making like a little difficult for the footy journalists assigned to football clubs.

    But I think Freedom of Information is a tool that is not completely understood. In some cases it is used too readily. But as it “beds down”, the FOI stuff will become “cat and mouse” game between the Civil Service and the Media. It already has I suppose.
    Its kindred law ….Data Protection Act…….the key for the Civil Service is “dont put anything dodgy on a computer”. Thus anyone who has actually asked for info under Data Protection Act is likely to be very disappointed about how little information it actually gives.

    One thing that has always intrigued me about Norn Irons public life is the relatively few players in Politics, Business, Administration, Academia, Media.
    But Ive only rarely used FOI.
    Because a lot of stuff is just “there”.
    Currently I am finding Facebook and “friends list” an invaluable source. It is surprising the connexions that actually show up on Facebook. Gold.

  • Mick Fealty

    You should note that Heather was a guest at the last Skeptics in a pub event in Westminster FJH.

    Sorry for the typos. It was early and I was in rush to pick a relative up from Dublin Airport. I’ll fix them when I stop for long enough.

  • Rory Carr

    “Old Malcolm, however, sticks with his doo-dah, which doesn’t have the same scatological weight.”

    This coy avoidance of doo-doo because of its perceived scatological connotation seems strange indeed in the context. What else would one expect to find on a dung-heap but doo-doo?
    While it is possible that do-dahs or indeed, gee-gaws might there abound, it is clear that doo-doo is what was intended, I would argue, and do-dah mistakenly written and no amount of rummaging through literary references is likely to obscure that faux-pas. No need to be so embarrassed, to raise a litany in defence, it’s only a mistake after all – we all make them. Don’t we?

  • Should you wish, I accept your correction.

    I do so out of respect to the late Jimbo Aloysius Juice, and Mr Rory’s Carr’s ancestor/namesake celebrated therein [Circe episode]:

    SECOND WATCH: I don’t want your instructions in the discharge of my duty.
    PRIVATE COMPTON: (PULLING HIS COMRADE) Here, bugger off Harry. Or Bennett’ll shove you in the lockup.
    PRIVATE CARR: (STAGGERING AS HE IS PULLED AWAY) God fuck old Bennett. He’s a whitearsed bugger. I don’t give a shit for him.

    BLOOM: (PEERING OVER THE CROWD) I just see a car there. If you give me a hand a second, sergeant …

  • Rory Carr

    Malcolm Redfellow’s graciousness overwhelms me. Alas, I can claim no blood-ties to his literary Mr Carr – all aquaphobic landlubbers in my line I’m afraid.

  • Brian Walker

    fitz.. Lobby journalists are not wined and dined by MP contacts, I assure you. It’s the other way round. On FOI, our study suggests most material “still goes on the computer” to avoid confusion and sofa government.Text remains a form of self protection, and there is little evidence that policy making has been affected by FOI. Life is more routine and less devious than you think, except sometimes.

  • Dr Concitor

    “Did the laws of thermodynamics exist before they were propounded or were they always sitting there, waiting to be found out? There’s no answer to that.”
    I think there is a fairly simple answer to that. The laws are a human description of the behaviour of heat, therefore cannot exist without humans. You may not agree with that,but it is a fairly standard response.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Maybe she is launching a political career.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    You surprise me Mr Walker. Ive seen some review the papers on Sky News etc. They look to have been wined and dined rather well. Im relieved that they have got in that state at their own expense rather than mine.

  • “the difficulties of the conventional newsroom: too much, way too soon.”

    Mick et al, I’ve spotted an item in the DRD Weekly Business Review, 27 September 2010, which you ought to look at; government might feel that too much information is getting into the public domain:

    “3.5 Social Websites: it was agreed that David Crabbe should meet with David Lammey [OFMDFM] to discuss this issue. Action: David Crabbe”

    You’ll recall that Crabbe recently asked belfastjj to remove FOI responses that had been blogged so perhaps the reference to social websites really means blogs.

    “David Lammey is Head of the Information Management & Central Advisory Branch, in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM). He was previously Head of the Central Freedom of Information team in OFMDFM .. During that time he was responsible for the Annual Sensitivity Review (’30-year rule’) exercise in Northern Ireland, and was Secretary of the Sensitivity Review Group. He also took the lead in implementing the White Paper on Open Government (1993) ..”

  • William Markfelt

    Or perhaps social websites also means the Facebook type things on which certain figures have been quite open about their golden circle of friends in the past.

    Which, as you say, might be too much information.

    It’s possible ‘in such a small place’ that people being able to make connections makes for some discomfort for certain persons, hence the need to perhaps discourage their use ‘for the good of the team’.

    Didn’t someone else’s profile on Linkedin (related to the NIW story) disappear once people starting chasing down the friends links?

  • William Markfelt

    12.2 is also interesting.

    £50 on dinner.

    Is that per head? Party of eight?

    If I take some bird out for a bag of chips at Groomsport, discuss a bit of office business before shagging her brains out in the back seat, can I still put a monkey on expenses for each of us even though the date came to £7.50 and the price of a condom?

  • Dr Concitor

    I think they mean that if they are taken out for dinner they have to put that down in the hospitality register as £50, but your take on it is much more entertaining. Also these minutes are written with Sluggerites and others in mind; social websites could well be blogs. Crabbe is on a mission.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I always wondered how these “dinners” were so cheap, other than the fact, that possibly,the last time any of this lot actually paid for a formal dinner was sometime around 1985.

    Why don’t they go to the “legal team”?

    It’s what they normally cite for cack handed,misguided and legally dubious statements in reports.

  • Dr Concitor

    “The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005”
    google this and see what you think.
    It appears you have to ask to reuse FOI information, but the purpose of this legislation is to encourage reuse.