NTV gets the scoop

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Beats Here & Now to the Hebron story

As most serious news viewers are already aware, the NTV Evening Newshour begins at about two minutes before 6:00 pm, when CBC Here & Now starts its newscast. This enables headline watchers like me to catch the news lineup of both shows, before settling in to watch one, the other, or some of both.

And last night, Michael Connors of NTV had a major scoop. He revealed that the province has reached agreement a Memorandum of Understanding with the oil companies to develop the Hebron offshore oil field, and that an announcement was coming today.

CBC didn't have this information off the top. However, reporter David Cochrane, who was sitting in the anchor's chair with Jonathan Crowe, broke in with the news about 13 minutes into the newscast. He too had been chasing the story that day, didn't quite have it confirmed to his satisfaction, but his hand was forced when NTV ran with it.

I invited NTV to comment on the 'story behind the story'; what was involved in breaking this news. However, news director Jim Furlong declined an interview.

"The sources for the Hebron story spoke to us of course on the condition of anonymity," was his reply. "For us to talk about, even in general terms, the process by which we obtained the information and how we handled it would shorten the list of possible sources. We wish to retain the trust of the people who spoke with us."

I had an email exchange with David Cochrane last night, in which he talked candidly about the situation.

"NTV scooped us," Cochrane said. "There is no doubt about that. I can't speak to their protocol and standards when it comes to source work, but I know I didn't have the type of sourcing where I could say 100 per cent the deal was done."

Cochrane said he was "confident" by midday yesterday that there was an agreement.

"I had heard enough buzz from enough people to be sure that the deal was done and that an announcement was imminent. But by the time we went to air I could not prove' it. So we held off. The plan had always been for me and Crowe to banter at the desk about the latest buzz, including rumours and info from industry players that things were nailed down and that an official announcement was coming at any minute.

"Once they went to air, it shook a few more things loose and we felt comfortable doing what we did Our plan was to do that anyway as a loose unscripted chat between myself and Jonathan. But NTV's report did create an extra sense of urgency about it.

"Again, I KNEW there was a deal. But I couldn't PROVE there was a deal. So I held off. Me and Peter Gullage talked about it before we went to air and decided that the informal host chat was the best treatment. In retrospect it might not have been the best choice. But, with the info we had and my sense of my own source work, I think it was the right choice at that point in time."

Cochrane also had words of praise for the NTV reporter who broke the story.

"Hats off to Mike Connors. He is a rock solid reporter. We started out together at The Muse. He is a good friend and a better colleague. He works hard and deserves his scoop."

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  • Frank
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    Scoops mean much more to reporters than they do to the general public, which cares much more about accuracy and context. Getting it right is more important than getting it first. Indeed, sometimes scoops amount to not much more than PR for the news source, as the journalists rarely have time to seek any sources who might provide a critical or contrary viewpoint. Hats off to both David and Michael, who are both good reporters. But hats off especially to Ed Hollet who did a great service to the public this morning on VOCM's Open Line by drawing attention to the fact that this is not a full-fledged deal - only an M.O.U. Also, if it is true that the province is buying an equity stake in the project, Ed is correct in pointing out that the province is assuming risk as well as a chance at reaping greater revenues. Getting it first is one thing, but the real measure of good journalism will be apparent in discerning which news outlet does a better job in explaining the implications of the M.O.U. and in seeking critical analysis of it from disinterested and credible sources.