One of the frustrations of working for a Sunday paper is getting good stories which you know will not hold until the weekend. Someone else will get hold of it and present it as their exclusive.
The web offers an alternative: break it yourself. This is what the Observer and their health editor, Jo Revill, did last week when she revealed dead turkeys from a Bernard Matthews’ plant in Hungary could be the source of the bird flu outbreak in Suffolk.
Today she writes in Media Guardian about the breaking of the story and tells how the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs attempted to sabotage the exclusive.
She put the story to the press office to give them a chance to comment. They did not come back to her and after two hours she approached them again and was told they were putting out a statement which would go to everyone.
They did not send it to her but she got it from a colleague on another paper. The Observer put out a press release saying they were breaking the story.
After Sky News ran with a line saying the Observer had reveled a link between meat and the outbreak, Defra rang up to remonstrate saying they had got their statement out first.
“If this is the way a government department deals with one outbreak how will they deal with the emergence of a pandemic?” Revill asks.
This is the first time the Observer has broken a story during the week. Expect more Sunday paper originated exclusives to appear before Sundays. It is another inevitable change in the way journalism works.