June 28, 2012

Forget the war going on between AP, CNN and Fox over the latter outlets’ botched announcement of Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling — a much more important battle rages in the mediasphere.

On Wednesday, SCOTUSblog reporter Lyle Denniston told The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff that “our number one ambition is to beat everybody” with news of the ruling. SCOTUSblog’s publisher, Tom Goldstein, said his ambition was to beat AP:

“The TV people out front literally won’t have it for about two minutes,” SCOTUSblog publisher and co-founder Tom Goldstein said. “After they hand it to Lyle, I expect 25 seconds after that, we’ll have it on the live blog. I would be surprised if the Associated Press can beat us.”

So did they? The AP sent its breaking news tweet at 10:08 a.m.

SCOTUSblog’s tweet about the mandate was at 10:09 a.m.

At 10:07 SCOTUSblog editor Amy Howe wrote “We have health care opinion.”

“Parsing it asap,” she wrote at 10:08, followed in the same minute by “The individual mandate survives as a tax.” At 10:10 Goldstein wrote, “So the mandate is constitutional. Chief Justice Roberts joins the left of the Court.” At 10:13, he wrote: “The bottom line: the entire ACA is upheld, with the exception that the federal government’s power to terminate states’ Medicaid funds is narrowly read.”

Reached by email, Goldstein said “I don’t yet know for sure” which news organization won the verdict race.

Of course, if you really care who was first (and here’s why you shouldn’t, Bloomberg says it beat AP by 24 seconds on its terminal. They tweeted the news at 10:11.

Just two months ago, Reuters’ Peter Lauria engaged in a similar debate with The New York Times over who broke news — the difference then was 26 seconds.

I’m being disingenuous about casting this as a race it was important to win. SCOTUSblog, AP and Bloomberg serve different audiences on different platforms. Erik Wemple wrote Thursday in The Washington Post that “There is no such thing as fashioning a scoop over something that’s released to the public.”

All that’s left, really, are timestamps, and news consumers who were served well today by these three outlets no matter how you count them. The loser wasn’t the one who was last, it was the ones who got it wrong trying to be first.

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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