A scoop is an exclusive news story broken by a single journalist or a group of journalists working together. Good scoops will attract a great deal of attention for the journalists and newspapers involved, with most major papers urging their staffs to get as many scoops as possible to add to the paper's prestige and perceived value. When a journalist manages to swoop in on a major story ahead of other journalists, he or she is said to have “scooped” the competition.
Scoops can take a wide variety of forms. Many relate to scandals and secret information, which by their very nature tend to be greeted with intense interest when they are exposed on the news. The story may also simply be important or particularly exciting; major breaking news is often a scoop. For example, the first newspaper to report on a major natural disaster may consider their reporting to be a scoop, as will the public, which will flock to the paper for more information while its competitors scramble to keep up.
Getting scoops requires a great deal of effort, and a very large support team. Many papers station journalists all over the world in the hopes of getting scoops on unexpected major stories, and they supplement these journalists with stringers who sell content to the highest bidder. Having foreign correspondents in place is a crucial part of running a successful major paper, and many news outlets dedicate a large chunk of their budget to maintaining such correspondents, along with their contacts.
Scoops can also be more local in nature. Journalists typically follow local politics and events closely, in the hopes of getting a scoop, and many cultivate extensive connections with local officials so that they are the first to know about major events. Without such connections, a journalist may flail behind the pack when big stories break, becoming a liability to their papers.
Numerous examples of scoops can be found in the news since 1874, when the word was first used in print. These scoops range from celebrity scandals to the publication of the Watergate Papers, and for the journalists involved, a scoop can be a substantial career-maker. If a journalist becomes known for getting high-quality scoops, he or she will typically be in great demand from major papers, and this may allow the journalist greater leeway to pursue projects and stories of personal interest.