Let’s stop using the word “exclusive” for our stories

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exclusive

The other night I sat down to read and watch the news – and the big story of the day was Lance Armstrong’s doping admission. First up for me was a venerable New York-based financial-centric newspaper who basically said they knew it all along, after all they had reported first in an “exclusive” that Lance’s teammate Floyd Landis had using banned performance enhancers, or something to that effect.

Soon, the story bored me so I switched on the TV news. First up was the report on a major network showing footage from its “exclusive” interview with Landis (who I could have sworn I’ve seen in another exclusive on another network).  In the course of the next 30 minutes, I read and watched two more exclusive reports. Wow.

This seemed to be two things. First, it was a frenzied reaction to Oprah’s “exclusive” interview with Lance. These news outlets had to tout their own accomplishments to keep up with Oprah. Second, it seemed like the ongoing abuse of the word “exclusive”.

If a CEO sits down with a news organization – and no other news organizations – we have an exclusive. Big deal. It only matters if the CEO breaks some news or provides insight into the company that was never before known.  If the CEO marches from studio to studio, from news desk to news desk, there’s actually a string of “exclusives.”

But again, does it matter? I remember an instance at a former place of employment where a reporter was lauded in breaking a news story, for getting information –exclusively – before the pack. What really happened was the reporter attended a press conference and called in a headline before anyone else. Great! Good work!

The only problem was that the press conference was televised. So did the reporter really have an exclusive? I don’t think so.

I hate the word and the way it’s thrown around so cavalierly by news organizations. Plus, I don’t think the reader/viewer cares very much.

Most of the other times that news organizations use the word, I think they do so to make themselves feel important. I don’t think the reader cares.

So kudos to Oprah for getting the interview with Lance and congrats to all the networks and newspapers that did their jobs in previous years. But let’s leave the word “exclusive” to the Woodwards and Bernsteins of the world.

Now, they had an exclusive.