Exclusive — it’s a word thrown about quite a bit on local TV news lately, but is it being overused and abused? According to several veteran broadcasters, some of their colleagues are often claiming stories to be exclusive on air when they are not.

What does exclusive mean, or at least, what should it mean?

Journalistically, when something is labeled as exclusive, it means no other media outlet has or is reporting the same information. Think the Washington Post and “Deep Throat” during Watergate.

These days in TV news, it often seems like a large number of stories are labeled as “breaking” or “exclusive,” or viewers are told the story is something “you’ll only see here.” It’s a time-honored tradition in the news business to let readers and viewers know they’re getting a scoop — although it’s become a bigger part of broadcast reporting — but if the claim isn’t true, doesn’t it step on the veracity of the story and the media outlet claiming exclusivity?

WKRG News Director Mike Rausch explained it this way: “We only use it if it’s a true enterprise story (such as our issue polling) or something of breaking news significance in which we were the only media organization on the scene.”

But it’s a pretty frequent occurrence to flip back and forth between the three Mobile stations these days and see one reporter or another claiming to have an exclusive on a story being covered at the exact same time on another channel. Or for some of those same reporters to ignore the fact a story already ran in print or online in Lagniappe or the Press-Register.

“Fast and loose with the word exclusive! Happens a lot!” one veteran newsman said on condition of anonymity. Asked why he thought it was happening so much, he said, “Consultants! And “journalists” who don’t know the difference. And the same goes for BREAKING NEWS.”

“We take them seriously,” he explained, talking about his station. “If a story breaks at 1, it’s not really breaking at 5. And if we’re not sure a story is exclusive — we won’t use the term.”

The problem isn’t isolated to local news, he said.

“I saw the “TODAY Show” claim breaking news, an exclusive interview with Secretary of State John Kerry. He had just been hammered on the Sunday shows and by Congress. What is exclusive? Exclusive to the morning shows?”

A couple of reporters in town have earned a reputation for attempting to label almost all of their stories as being exclusive. One in particular has even earned the ire of her co-workers who feel this reporter repeatedly declaring as exclusive stories that are running on other stations, or have already run in print, is ruining the meaning of the word. One of this reporter’s co-workers told a story of her claiming a story was exclusive during a live shot while another station’s reporter was standing right next to her.

A reporter also told a story of a colleague send out a mass email claiming to have received an exclusive news release, which brought laughter in the office as news releases by definition go out to the media as a whole.

Certainly it is possible to mistakenly declare a story exclusive if one isn’t closely monitoring other media. The question that arises is just how much research is being done by some broadcasters before they tell viewers they’re the only ones who have that information. I know it’s not rare to see certain reporters claiming to have broken stories that may have run in Lagniappe weeks before.

Another veteran reporter said she’s all but given up on hoping to see the term “exclusive” put back into proper usage.

“It’s becoming overused like the phrase ‘breaking news.’ That has been so overused, no one believes it anymore. I hate that about ‘exclusive’ because I work hard to come up with interesting, unique content,” she said.

Two leaving WPMI
Meteorologist Deitra Tate will be leaving Local 15 News in September, it has been announced.

Tate, who works with the “Local 15 Today” show, is moving on in her career, although her new job hasn’t been made public. She becomes the second WPMI meteorologist to announce a move in the past month, joining Chief Meteorologist Derek Beasely.

Tate has been at the station for nine years. Previously she worked at KEVN in Rapid City, South Dakota.

“Dietra made the decision to move on to new opportunities,” station manager Bobby Totsch wrote. “Dietra will stay on into September and maybe longer. Starting mid-August, Kelly Foster will go back to mornings and Dietra will cover the weekend and other duties. We will obviously miss Dietra. She is a solid meteorologist and very well respected in the community and at Local 15.”

Totsch said her position will be filled.

He also verified that sports anchor/reporter Paxton Boyd left the station this week. His abrupt departure leaves WPMI without a sports staff just weeks before high school football begins.

Ch-ch-changes …
Jessica Sawyer, news manager for the Press-Register/Mobile branch of al.com, has announced she’s leaving in mid-August to become the director of marketing and communications for the Community Foundation of South Alabama. No word yet on who might fill Jessica’s position heading up news.

Veteran reporter Carol McPhail is also leaving the P-R and has taken a public relations job at the Mitchell Cancer Institute.

Former P-R sports reporter — and Lagniappe freelancer — Tommy Hicks has taken a position as the editor of the Citronelle Call News.

And Mobile Police Department Public Information Officer Ashley Rains has moved on to a position as assistant director of alumni and development at Spring Hill College.