When I worked at the BBC, journalism was not nearly as grubby as you might imagine.
There was the time I was threatened by a theatrical agent and I once got hauled in front of the boss for playing tough with the Today programme over access to a radio car, but this is small change.
Stories for the daily news show I worked on came from; the world around us, what was on the newsgathering diary and other media, like newspapers. We called this “following-up”, but it was more like lifting other people’s stories. Don’t get me wrong, we would always go back to sources to check it out and take it on and give it a new spin but you get the idea.
There was something about seeing a story already in print that made some editors feel secure, a validation that this was indeed real.* The fact that it had probably been dreamed up by a PR somewhere didn’t matter because we didn’t have to deal with them, we just worked on the ‘story’.
On the other hand, nobody wanted something that had already been everywhere, it was a fine line.
Looking now from a PR stand point you can see how placing a story with just one source might have a positive effect. If it’s good others will want to pile in and organisations like the BBC can follow-up without feeling they are taking the PR dollar – they don’t have to get grubby.
So it is worth being exclusive if you think your journalist is going to bite, then sit back and let the other outlets spread the story for you.
* I would like the record to show that I also worked with some tremendous editors who had the courage to run original work.