Friday, April 27, 2018
Perspective

I will be first, right or wrong

The only thing missing from the mega-coverage of the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act last month was proper credit to the journalist who first broke the story. That journalist was me.

History will show, and Twitter archives prove, that I tweeted "SCOTUS AFFIRMS ACA." to my 7,503 followers at 10 o'clock sharp on the morning of June 28, a full seven minutes and 35 seconds before anyone else reported the decision. The next to weigh in was CNN and then Fox News, both of which, in their haste, breathlessly got it wrong.

How did I do it? It was easy! I guessed! As I admitted at the time, it was simply an effort to win the astonishingly stupid and pointless media game of being incrementally first on a breaking story that is spoon-fed to everyone at the same time. This is one of the sad artifacts of modern journalism, where everything is reported on a 24-hour news cycle, and speed is wildly overvalued.

When I was a young newspaper reporter, with once-a-day deadlines, we lived by the byword "Late But Great," meaning it's okay to be second on a story so long as you tell it better. Today's byword seems to be: "Worst But First."

There are relatively few times when fierce competition makes sense and seconds matter; the most famous of these was in 1963, when Merriman Smith of United Press International destroyed the competition on the biggest story of his life. He was riding in the pool press car behind the presidential limousine in Dallas when shots were fired. Smith was first to grab the lone "radio phone" in the car, and for the next few minutes he clamped onto it like a pit bull on a rump roast, calling in his international scoop, pretending his office couldn't hear him, repeating himself again and again as the hapless Associated Press man pleaded for the phone, and finally started pummeling Smith with closed fists. Smith eventually surrendered the phone, but apparently not before disabling it: The AP man got a dead line. This act of competitive thuggery earned Smith a five-minute, international five-bell exclusive, a back full of welts and bruises, and the Pulitzer Prize.

But stories like this are once-in-a-lifetime events. Today, in an era of mostly managed news, the impulse for a five-minute scoop is absurd and wonky and petty. It leads to things such as the glorious moment, preserved forever on YouTube, where Fox's Shannon Bream, a former Miss Virginia, beautifully coiffed and professionally poised, stands outside the Supreme Court reading from, and interpreting, page one of Chief Justice John Roberts' health care decision. As a journalist, I can tell you it is not possible to watch this excruciating performance without a fierce internal monologue:

"He says the individual mandate cannot be sustained under Congress' power to regulate commerce!"

(Turn the page, Shannon!)

"That means the mandate is gone!"

(Turn. The. %.!&.. Page. Shannon.)

Meanwhile, over on CNN, John King was busy trying to beat the competition, lurching into the Big Picture. No way was he going to let a mere slip of a girl best him.

"The justices throwing that out is a direct blow to the president of the United States, a direct blow to his Democratic Party, and this is a victory, if you will, for... "

Because I want to do my part for American journalism, I hope you all tune in to my Twitter feed at precisely 9:50 p.m. Aug. 5, when I will live tweet, at the moment of the starting gun, the winner and the winning time for the Olympic men's 100-meter dash. Hey, there's a chance I'll be right, but more important, I'll be first ... by nine whole seconds.

© 2012 Washington Post Writers Group

Comments
PolitiFact: Understanding felon voting rights restoration

PolitiFact: Understanding felon voting rights restoration

When felons leave prison, should they regain the right to vote?Thatís a question that many states have grappled with in recent decades. Florida and New York made recent headlines for policies on restoration of voting rights, and those policies have b...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

Oh, Florida! For our Puerto Rican evacuees, a primer on Florida politics

Casablanca again, and as always I got sucked in by the romantic triangle of Rick, Ilsa and Captain Renault. (Oh, and Victor. Hmm, I guess itís more of a love rhombus.)Anyway, thereís a scene in there that never fails to make me think of Florida. Two ...
Published: 04/24/18
Updated: 04/26/18
Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe path for wildlife across Interstate 4

Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe path for wildlife across Interstate 4

The original Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition in 2012 was inspired by how the Florida black bear roamed ó and the space it needed to do so successfully. In 2010, expedition team member Joe Guthrie conducted research through the University of Kent...
Published: 04/22/18
Book review: James Comey wants to explain himself

Book review: James Comey wants to explain himself

In 2016, as the director of the FBI, James Comey publicly dissected Hillary Clintonís email server controversy. Later, we learned that Comey was keeping to himself the beginnings of an investigation into Russiaís active interference in the U.S. elect...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Column: Why the Starbucks racial bias training is more than just good PR

Column: Why the Starbucks racial bias training is more than just good PR

Starbucks isnít really in the coffee business. Weíve known that for over a decade. McDonaldís coffee is better and cheaper than Starbucks, but that hasnít done any harm to the coffee shopís bottom line. Thatís because what people are paying for when ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18

"ISNíT EVEN A 1,"is how Michael Cohen, President Donald Trumpís personal lawyer and close friend, would rate on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 is fully protecting the president. Thatís how one of Trumpís longtime legal advisers, Jay Goldberg, says he...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition will hope to find a path across Interstate 4 for wildlife

Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition will hope to find a path across Interstate 4 for wildlife

n two expeditions, three friends and trailblazing conservationists have already trekked more than 2,000 miles through wildlands crisscrossing the state to prove the viability of a Florida Wildlife Corridor, a network of the best remaining connected w...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/14/18
A Little Perspective: Interesting news and notes from around the world

A Little Perspective: Interesting news and notes from around the world

THE QUIZ: Four cards are laid in front of you, each of which has a letter on one side and a number on the other. The sides that you see read E, 2, 5 and F. Your task is to turn over only those cards that could decisively prove the truth or falsity of...
Published: 04/12/18
Updated: 04/20/18
PolitiFact: A closer look at attorney-client privilege after raid of Donald Trumpís lawyer

PolitiFact: A closer look at attorney-client privilege after raid of Donald Trumpís lawyer

President Donald Trump lashed out after the FBI seized business records, emails and tax documents belonging to his personal attorney Michael Cohen.Law enforcement executed warrants on Cohenís Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of an invest...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Smith: Adam Putnam knows Florida, but that might not be enough today to become governor

Smith: Adam Putnam knows Florida, but that might not be enough today to become governor

Here is a little secret among reporters who regularly interact with Gov. Rick Scott:Reporters know it rarely matters if they happen to miss one of the governorís periodic and brief question and answer sessions. He almost never says anything.How shou...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18