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Oops! My Bergstein Scoop Wasn’t an ‘Exclusive’ After All

How an Old Media veteran (inadvertently) expropriated a scoop in the age of online news and Googling

My scoop yesterday wasn’t a scoop.

Under my byline and with the headline “David Bergstein's Past Casino Troubles Include Florida Fraud Arrest,” TheWrap published the story of embattled David Bergstein’s arrest last November in Florida on a fugitive warrant from Las Vegas.

The story, based on interviews and documents related to the arrest, reported that Bergstein’s brief incarceration resulted from charges in Las Vegas that he had stiffed the Wynn and Venetian casinos for almost $2 million. (We reported that in recent years Bergstein had allegedly stiffed three casinos for almost $3 million, including a widely-reported nearly $1-million debt owed to the Mandalay.)

At my urging, my editors billed the story as an “exclusive,” meaning that the account of Bergstein’s travails hadn’t been reported elsewhere. Well, as a matter of fact, it was hardly an exclusive, as I belatedly discovered.

My first step in reporting my “scoop” was an extensive Google search to determine whether any of the wide-ranging coverage of Bergstein included an account of his arrest. During two days of reporting prior to publishing our story, I Googled the topic countless additional times. Zilch!

What I have since discovered — thanks to LAObserved.com, which blew the whistle Wednesday on my supposed scoop — was that the story had appeared before, in the Daily Journal, the Los Angeles based legal-news publication, which ran a detailed account of Bergstein’s troubles in May. It just hadn't appeared online.

In making this embarrassing mistake, I learned a very valuable lesson that perhaps many journalists already know: Even in the age of Google, all news isn’t published on line or within the grasp of Google. As a case in point—and now to my dismay—the Daily Journal doesn’t exactly eschew the worldwide web. But unlike many publishers, it safeguards its content behind a firewall, a Daily Journal editor told me — a firewall Google’s ubiquitous web-searching crawlers apparently can’t breach.

The Journal’s story didn’t show up for obvious reasons. Nor apparently had its May article been noticed and followed by others who do publish on the web. The only other explanation: Those Google crawlers somehow overlooked any online stories about Bergstein’s arrest.

In any case, I’m truly sorry for inadvertently expropriating the Journal’s scoop, and kudos to LAObserved. And I hope that I’m spared jail time for the offense of assuming all news finds its way onto the Internet for exposure by Google.