I read the following Tweet posted by an NBC News political editor:
“Romney talks with NBC’s Brian Williams in exclusive interview”
The included link took me to the image you see. An NBC News reporter re-Tweeted it. Some journalists might complain politicians don’t take reporters’ questions frequently enough, but I wonder what would make a one-on-one interview with Romney or President Obama an exclusive in the true spirit of the word? I Tweeted to both people at NBC, asking what makes the Romney interview an exclusive. Neither person has responded. I asked for some other opinions.
“I don’t think a general run of the mill interview with any such public figure can be ‘exclusive,’” said a Michigan videographer with years of TV news experience. “The content however could be. Say NBC is getting Mitt to open up about his tax returns for the past 10 years and he is only talking to NBC about that. Then the content would be exclusive. A generic sit down interview is not exclusive especially when he is offering them up to everyone.”
A North Carolina videographer told me this about the Romney interview: “Unless he told the interviewer something about his taxes that he hasn’t told anyone else – then no.”
I haven’t heard new information about Romney and his tax returns. The NBC Tweet I saw about the exclusive interview focused on Romney’s comments on gun control. Since then, I read how some of Romney’s statements about the Olympics stirred up controversy.
The newsrooms I worked in rarely referred to their stories as “exclusives.” I think the stations would have used the term more often, but getting a truly exclusive story on an important issue isn’t easy for most journalists. And when the newsroom asked the graphics department for that slick exclusive banner to splash across the TV screen, I used to joke that we were reminding viewers that 99 percent of the time, we offered stories they could also find somewhere else.
“I think it’s a term that only means something to people in the business,” said a former TV news supervisor in Chicago. “Normal folks watching at home have no idea what it means or why it’s important. It means someone’s bragging they got something no one else got.”
Did NBC get something significant that no else got? The answer often isn’t easy to immediately figure out.
“I’m always very wary of using it because it’s hard to be sure that someone else wasn’t able to get the same interview after you,” a California TV reporter told me. “In general I find it’s an overused phrase used for shameless self promotion. I don’t generally use it unless specifically instructed to.”
The media’s job is to slice through the spin, not offer a different form of it. Save the exclusive label for an actual big scoop, an interview your competitors actually want but can’t get. You don’t outdo the competition by simply saying you did.
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