Scoop in the News

Waugh’s 1930s novel Scoop about newspapers and journalists has itself made the news in two journals this week. The Independent, now an online-only newspaper, has compiled a list of  “novels or films whose invented insider culture influenced real life.” Here’s the entry for Scoop in the 10 novels and films that made the list:

After journalists realise they’re not going to bring down a president (see no 5), they still think of themselves as colourful rogues abroad. Nominated by Henry Jeffreys.

No. 5 is All the Presidents’ Men a book by and film about Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and their employer the Washington Post, whose journalism did in fact bring down President Richard Nixon in the 1970s. The article is headed by a photo of the first printing dust wrapper of Waugh’s book. Subsequent printings lacked the masthead of The Daily Beast due to threats of libel action for similarity to that of the paper it satirized.

The politically conservative US online newspaper Breitbart News makes a link between present day Daily Beast (another online newspaper) and its fictional namesake. The Beast sent a reporter (Nico Hines) to Rio, along with packs of his fellow journalists, to cover the Olympics. His brief was to cover not the games but the sexual habits of the Olympic athletes. He posed as a homosexual on Grindr to troll for examples:

Like so many in the Fourth Estate, Hines missed the story in front of him (a quadrennial competition of the planet’s best athletes) for a duh, non-story hiding behind well-placed bedroom walls (that gays exist among the ten-thousand-plus Olympians gathered and they engage in online trysts away from home)…Hines’s major deceit came when he convinced himself he acted as a journalist in writing online what normally appears on the bathroom wall. Like William Boot working for that Daily Beast, Nico Hines working for this Daily Beast passed himself off as somebody else.

The Daily Beast’s editors printed Hines’ article but then later deleted it as inconsistent with the the paper’s standards of supporting the LGBT community against discrimination. After criticizing Hines for posing as a homosexual on Grindr to write the story and the Beast for commissioning and then deleting it, Breitbart News cites another Waugh allusion for the conclusion to its article:

The creator of the original Daily Beast ironically received Daily Beast treatment posthumously. Author Paula Byrne, relying on less than convincing but more than thought-provoking evidence, writes that Evelyn Waugh experienced an “acutely homosexual phase” at Oxford in her book Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead. She didn’t use Grindr to out the half-century dead Catholic novelist. She instead relied on a picture that some people saw but we can’t, cryptic letters, and evidence from a trio of long-since dead alleged male paramours. Even if she got every fact right, Byrne, like Hines, did something terribly wrong.

“He was wrong about the Battle of Hastings,” the dim-witted Daily Beast owner Lord Copper tells his foreign editor about a star reporter. “It was 1066. I looked it up. I won’t employ a man who isn’t big enough to admit his mistakes.”

Good for The Daily Beast to admit its mistakes. Bad for them to not know the answer, like Lord Copper, to such a basic question.

UPDATE (14 August 2016): There have been several other comments about the journalistic ethics of the Daily Beast’s reporter at the Olympics. These are collected in and include a quote from the Breitbart News story citation to Scoop.

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