Daniel Okrent has a great article in the NYTimes Week in Review, decrying the culture of scoops which is one of the causes of bad journalism in the United States today. The best part of the article is: Some newspaper people seem to regard beating the competition as the opposable thumb of journalism, an essential characteristic that distinguishes winners from losers. I think it's more like the tailbone, a vestigial remnant from the era when reporters were still swinging from the trees - that distant time when New York had eight daily papers, and newsboys in knickers prowled the streets shouting "Extra!" whenever their papers had something the other guys didn't.

Presumably, the incentive for scoops is created because of a connection papers and magazines perceive between breaking a story a day or two ahead of their competitors, and increased readership. This is most likely the case even when the competitors will have a more fleshed-out version of the story. Given that the behavior of readers is unlikely to change, how can the incentive to get a story out first, even if it's inaccurate or unjustly one-sided, be removed?

I would hope that one benefit of the incessant crowing from blogs about errors in other news and news analysis sources is to create exactly such an incentive, such that it's seen as more valuable to get a story slightly later but more accurately; that this will have more of a positive affect on readership than just being first. Cutting against this is a tendency among some blogs to denounce reporting as inaccurate because it is contrary to one's beliefs about how things should be. This pollutes the signal of a sources quality and makes it less likely that they'll be incentivized to take the time to get things right, since they are guaranteed to be denounced when they get things right which certain people find inconvenient. But I can still hope that the over all signal to noise ratio from blogs is good enough that there will be some improvement in incentives for accuracy over speed.