Writers dish on scoops that slipped away

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Far as I know, I never got scooped on a story. But it almost happened: I’d spent several years working on a true crime piece about a serial killing in San Francisco. A draft was rejected by a dozen publications. I’d happily dipped into the red, thanks to plane fare and Castro accommodations. But when it finally ran, people liked it.  

And then I got an email. It was from Sarah Weinman, a journalist whose work I revere. She said that the case had been on her radar for years. In fact, we’d pitched it to the same publication. This was after the fact, of course, but it was frightening to learn I’d had a superior colleague breathing down my neck and had no idea. I experienced what I assume were heart palpitations.

ICYMI: Two dozen freelance journalists told CJR the best outlets to pitch

I imagine that to actually get scooped on a story must feel considerably worse. So over the last two weeks, I contacted a number of journalists whose work I admire, and asked what it was like to be scooped. Some said that, like me, they’d managed to dodge a bullet. Others were not so lucky. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.


Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

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Dear Mr. Green,

::::::::::::::::::::::::Can’t think of any, offhand. Hope that’s not just The Old Oaken Bucket delusion.


Robert Kolker, Lost Girls

Whenever I think back on the ones where I got beaten, I feel a little like an actor who shows up to the same auditions as other actors, who look like me and talk like me and are the same age as me—and suddenly realize we’re all up for the same role. Some of us will get the role and others won’t. I feel like that’s happened a lot.

It’s all about battling for access. There was the story of Audrie Pott, a…

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