Chat with a producer, beat writer or editor these days about what they’re interested in and the first word you’ll likely hear is “exclusives.” The “background” conversation usually goes something like this:
Executive or PR Guy: So what are you really following these days; any ideas what you may be looking at in the near future?
Pay-by-exclusives Reporter: What I’m really interested in right now is exclusives.
Executive or PR Guy: Great, yeah, I’ve seen a few of yours. You following the high speed Internet race?
Pay-by-exclusives Reporter: You have exclusive information there?
Executive or PR Guy: No, no inside information here or anything to announce, but what Google is doing will certainly shake-up things.
Pay-by-exclusives Reporter: “Google planning to shake-up telecom industry,” I may run with that on wire. You haven’t shared with others right?
Executive or PR Guy: Umm
Pay-by-exclusives Reporter: Don’t worry, you can trust me, how do you think I get all these exclusives? Going to chat with some other folks now before I file, thanks.
Albeit a bit exaggerated, it gives you a look at the extent of focus on exclusives these days (even if they’re not necessarily real yet) at all the major news services: Dow Jones, Reuters, AP and Bloomberg. Flatly, if they’re not breaking news, it’s not news. And if you’re (reporter) not producing news – you’re fired.
I’ve covered it before, but what is really changing is how tightly intertwined breaking news stories are with compensation and job safety.
And as Gawker covered this morning, it’s coming to a head within the walls of these news organizations. Following in the footsteps of the “breaking news points” system established by Bloomberg, the competitive field has established similar standards.
However, Gawker is reporting that AP staffers are planning to fight back against this “culture of fear.”
Our AP source says a majority of the staff — 90 percent, this person claims — are about to send a jointly-signed letter to Business Editor Hal Ritter accusing him of “installing a culture of fear.”
Will it help? Probably not. It’ not the management of these news organizations that are making these rules, it’s the market. Speed of “important” information, is the only revenue driver news organizations have left on the Web (unless they put up that wall). You can’t put the genie back in the bottle at this point. Unless these news organizations move towards some sort of non-profit model, it will only get more competitive and more fearful for the paid-journalists that remain.