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Right above my desk in our newsroom are two TVs. One is typically tuned to our station with the other tuned to WECT. This is pretty common in newsrooms as a way to see what the competition is doing and make sure your own station is still on the air. One of the more interesting things about this set-up, though, is that you get to see how competing programs stack up against each other, both on the local and national level. You'd be amazed at how often the national news programs especially are airing the same story at the same time.

Another thing I've noticed with this side-by-side comparison is how overused certain labels are on the national level, especially "EXCLUSIVE!" One morning I actually saw NBC's Today promote an EXCLUSIVE interview with two people while the same two people were on ABC's Good Morning America. The sound was off on TV showing Today, so I'm guessing they probably legitimized it because they had a live interview, instead of the recorded interview GMA did before the shows went on the air. But it was still ridiculous to use the EXCLUSIVE label when both networks (and likely The Early Show on CBS and probably the cable networks as well) had the interview.

Truth be told, I have labeled stories in my career as EXCLUSIVE. But the label has been used only when I was the only reporter to get an important interview or an angle that other stations wanted, needed or should have had. But I'd never apply it to a story that only I had just because my station was the only one that bothered to do it. The networks don't use that rationale, though.

Back in November, ABC's World News with Charles Gibson promoted and ran for several days what it called "President Bush's only TV interview before Thanksgiving." Well, perhaps it was the only interview with the President that aired in the three days before Thanksgiving. But I'm fairly certain that the leader of the free world gave at least a couple of interviews in the 6.5 years he'd been in office before Thanksgiving 2007.

Just this morning, GMA and Today both promoted a story about allegations by Hillary Clinton that Barack Obama was using lines in speeches that his friend Deval Patrick used when Patrick ran for and won the governor's race in Massachusetts a few years ago. Today teased an EXCLUSIVE interview with Obama. Literally, at the same moment, GMA laid claim to an EXCLUSIVE interview with Patrick. Now do you really think that NBC somehow convinced Obama only to talk to the Peacock to start another day of hotly-contested primaries instead of being on multiple networks ahead of the voting? I doubt it. It's more likely that either ABC didn't bother to try and get a one-on-one interview with Obama or the candidate's schedule did not work out. I'll bet the same goes for why NBC did not have Patrick on this morning.

But the real kicker came later in the morning. I'd heard that a couple members of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies were on Today talking about a clubhouse prank Saturday in which pitcher Kyle Kendrick was tricked into believing he had been traded to a team in Japan. So I went on Today's website and found the video of the interview Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera did with Kendrick and fellow Phillie Brett Myers, who helped pull off the prank. And all through the interview NBC labeled it EXCLUSIVE. Really? EXCLUSIVE?  The prank itself was orchestrated by a reporter for Philadelphia cable channel ComcastSportsNet (the ethics involved in that are a blog for another day). NBC even used CSN's video. I first heard about the whole thing Sunday morning when I read a story from a Philadelphia newspaper online, which included quotes from Kendrick and Myers. Sorry, NBC. But just because you were the only media outlet to talk to a couple guys involved in something three days after it happened does not mean it's EXCLUSIVE. That's the same tactic the last-place station in a market where I used to work would take when it was the only station to cover a story on a particular day only because the other stations in town had done it days earlier.

So my warning to you the viewer: Take the old EXCLUSIVE label, especially from the national news networks, with a grain of salt. The fact is, the other networks are probably doing some version of the same story. You likely just don't know, because unlike those of us who do this for a living, you probably only watch one TV at a time.

By: Kevin Wuzzardo

Great post

Great blog, Kevin, on a topic that often baffles us print reporters. We don't use "Exclusive" as much as TV, but we're getting into the habit of posting "first reported online at x:00 a.m." just to say, "see, we have been telling you to go to our web site early and often!!" Wonder how many people out there really care about how early they hear about something rather than how accurate the news is. Great read, Kevin.

EXCLUSIVE Comments...

I wanted to have my Exclusive Comments posted on this blog.

Well how about ABC11(DURHAM)

Well how about ABC11(DURHAM) using BREAKING NEWS every chance they get. What they claim is breaking news doesn't even make the top headlines on other local news stations. Then they come back with "The most breaking news" or more breaking news than any other station. "Breaking news....water main break in Cary" I'm sorry that is not breaking news. It's like the boy who cried wolf...after a while everyone stops listening!