OLD Media Moves

Scoops on AT&T/BellSouth deal became obsolete

March 10, 2006

The practice of a company or a public relations person giving certain media outlets a scoop on a deal or a major announcement has been something that has left a sour taste in my mouth for years now, even when I was on the receiving end of such largesse. Such backslapping deals are almost always guaranteed to upset other reporters, who will then demand their own scoop for the next major announcement by the company.

AT&T/BellSouthTheDeal.com Executive Editor Yvette Kantrow notes that the scoops by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal on the AT&T/BellSouth deal this past weekend were rendered pointless when the companies put out a press release on Sunday announcing the deal. Since the Journal doesn’t publish on Sundays and the Times was only able to get a small story buried on p. A29 in its Sunday paper, neither really was able to benefit from having the story online Saturday night.

Kantrow noted, “From that point on, other news outlets, from the big network news shows Sunday evening to the Monday morning papers from here to Dubuque, could report on the deal, sourcing it not to The Times or The Journal, but to Ma Bell herself. So much for being first.

“That’s a far cry from how things worked in the last century, when deal reporters felt secure enough to hold their weekend scoops at least until Sunday night and still be able to bask in some newsbreaking credit come Monday morning. (Their security sometimes stemmed from many of those scoops being the results of carefully negotiated leaks.) But with the Internet making news-reporting a 24-hour-a-day affair — even for the ink-stained wretches who toil at deadline-laden newspapers — the luxury of waiting until late Sunday appears to have gone the way of the rotary dial telephone. In the case of AT&T, that led reporters to put up their scoops at a rather weird time — how many people are paying attention to merger news at midnight on a Saturday? — which then forced the companies to widely announce their deal on a Sunday (and Oscar Sunday, at that.) The result: the reporters’ scoops got obscured and the glory of being first was gone.”

Read her column here.

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