The Scoop That Wasn’t

A few days ago, Bloomberg reported on the true identity of Startup L. Jackson, one of Twitter’s most beloved pseudonymous accounts.

While I’ve known that Parker Thompson was the guy behind the account for a while now, there was a period of time back when I was a reporter in which I didn’t know that fact… and in which I was doggedly trying to figure out exactly who was tweeting such brilliant stuff.

Anyway, the result was me spending about three weeks working on a story that never got published — and thankfully so, since I ended up being wrong about who I speculated was behind the account.

Looking back on that post, which I subsequently put up on Medium, I’m reminded of how imperfect the practice of journalism can be. A lot of times as a reporter you will hear a bit of scuttlebutt and then spend a lot of time just trying to confirm what you think to be true.

In this case, it was a piece of factual information — the name of a person — which can be pretty easy to confirm or deny. The fact that I couldn’t get someone to confirm the name of the guy behind Startup L. Jackson made it easy not to run with the story.

But then a lot of times the things you hear will be more nuanced — say, Company X is raising a big round of funding, or Company Y is having serious issues — in which it’s more difficult to get to the truth of the matter. At those times, it’s easy to get caught up in the opinions of people, many of whom will have an agenda.

Of course, it’s the journalist’s job to try to distill all of these pieces of information and report on what they believe to be the truth. But it’s an imperfect art, to be sure.

As a side note, this is something my former TechCrunch colleague Alex Wilhelm and I talked about on the podcast we’ve been working on over the past few months. Give a listen if you’re at all interested.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *