The Trouble with Scoops

We almost had a scoop the other day at Slate, the online magazine I edit. We were all terribly excited. The adrenaline was flowing. This is what journalists live for: we were going to grab the world's attention, expose hypocrisy, rectify injustice and draw in new customers. And yet I was only half sorry when the story didn't work out. Scoops are fool's gold in many ways.

The basic premise of a scoop is that you're bringing important facts to public attention. Your philosophical touchstone is Justice Louis Brandeis' bromide that sunlight is the best disinfectant. But you spend much or...

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