When Dallas Morning News reporter Tom Benning called a Susan G. Komen for the Cure spokeswoman Friday morning, he got a heads up that something big was about to break.
“I literally called the person who was sending out the press release two minutes before she sent it,” said Benning, who was calling for updates on Komen’s decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. “I was on the phone with her, and before I could even get a question out, she said, ‘Hold on, we’re about to send out something that you’re going to want to see.’”
Benning said the woman didn’t have time to give him more details, so he gave her his email address and asked her to send him the release. As soon as he got off the phone, he talked with folks on the Morning News’ Web team and said he would update them when he got more information.
A few minutes later, Benning received an email from the Dallas-based Komen about the policy revision. He’s not sure how many other reporters received the release, but said that having a few extra minutes to prepare made a big difference. The Dallas Morning News was one of the first news organizations (perhaps the first) to break the news.
“We had all the mechanisms going to get this online quickly,” Benning said. “Having that however many seconds or minutes head start so we could post it online and get it on Twitter made a difference as far as getting eyeballs on our website.” A few minutes after the Morning News posted the release, it was published on Komen’s website.
Benning didn’t have time to write much of a lead introducing the release, but he’s now working on a follow-up story.
“The goal was to just get the release up there quickly and then immediately after that reach out to Planned Parenthood to see if what they were hearing on their end matched up with what Komen said,” he said.
The Morning News had assigned two reporters — Sherry Jacobson and Scott Farwell — to cover Komen’s initial decision and the backlash over it. Jacobson was in Fort Worth today covering a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, so others were asked to fill in for her.
“It fell to me to stay up to date on what the news of the day was and to start working on what our next story was going to be,” said Benning, who typically covers politics.
Having multiple people on the story, checking in with key players for updates, and communicating with the Web team were all factors that helped enhance the Morning News’ coverage. Luck helped, too.
“Other reporters have really been leading the story and deserve credit, too.” Benning said. “I think it was me being in the right place at the right time.”
The website has benefited. Bruce Tomaso said by email:
By noon today, the blog on which the story originally appeared, The Scoop, had gotten more four times as many hits as it normally gets in a 24-hour period — and the overwhelming majority of those hits came in the hour after Tom posted his entry.
The hits keep coming. Right now, The Scoop is accounting for more than 27 percent of all page views on our more than three dozen news, sports, and features blogs. (And this is on a day when our Texas Rangers blog has carried one of the biggest local sports stories in a long while, about baseball star Josh Hamilton’s lapse from sobriety.)