Today, most people probably relate the word scoop to ice cream or sherbet. Given the fact that Americans consume more than one billion gallons of ice cream and other frozen delicacies a year, that’s understandable. However, the scoop we’re referring to is a media term that’s been around for more than a century. Over the years, it has come to mean the truth, the real story, the facts or, in the vernacular, “the straight dope,” “the real skinny,” “the lowdown,” “the inside scoop,” etc.
In media terms, a scoop is an exclusive, often sensational story, news item or report one media outlet uncovers and reveals before any of its competitors. Journalism is a fiercely competitive profession, and a scoop is a much sought after and highly valued prize, giving one newspaper, magazine, radio or TV station a distinct marketing advantage, as well as bragging rights – which last only until someone else uncovers a new scoop.
In early American newspaper days, a reporter who consistently got to a story first often earned the nickname, “Scoop.” It’s a peculiar term, one that reportedly originated from card playing. In the pre-electronic era, reporters were known to congregate around courthouses, hospitals, police stations, and other places considered the most likely sites for breaking news stories. With time on their hands, some engaged in such pastimes as playing poker.
According to Why Do We Say It?, published by Book Sales, Inc., “the use of this term by newspapermen comes from poker. If there’s a big pot and you are the winner, you ‘scoop’ up the chips. From this we get the meaning of ‘winning over others in large measure’ – which is what a paper does when it gets a ‘scoop.’”
So there you have it – the straight scoop!