When we arrived at the San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday afternoon, we were expecting a media circus.
Instead, we saw firsthand the sea change that’s happened in the media business.
Digital media outlets, more aggressive and hungrier to serve the readers, are increasingly doing the primary shovelwork of reporting.
We’ve been in this business for years, but it still surprised us.
The filing of Kleiner Perkins’ response in the explosive Ellen Pao gender-discrimination lawsuit was due to land at the courthouse any minute.
Kleiner had been served with papers on May 14, which set a 30-day countdown for the firm to respond.
At 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time, it was a media circus of one. Business Insider was the first publication on the scene.
There was no line, so we chatted up a clerk at the Subsequent Filings desk: Nothing yet from Orrick, Kleiner’s law firm.
We spoke to some bicycle messengers who said their firm regularly did business with Orrick: They hadn’t seen anything in the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins case come through.
Off to the Public Viewing Room, where another court worker checked the database for us and confirmed the response hadn’t been filed yet.
So we connected to the courthouse’s free Wi-Fi and prepped our story.
A few other people went up to the desk to ask about cases.
“Has anything been filed for Case 520719?” we heard a woman ask.
“You’re not the first to ask,” the worker at the desk, pointing to me.
“Hi, Colleen,” we said to Colleen Taylor of TechCrunch—second in line to get the court filing.
We chatted with Taylor about the case. Then a second woman came up and read off a case number.
“She looks familiar,” Taylor said.
“Come join the party,” we said, and beckoned the newcomer over. She was Sarah McBride, the Reuters reporter who revealed that Ellen Pao was still working at Kleiner Perkins—and attracting supporters at a party Kleiner threw in Palo Alto.
A bearded man wearing a cap and glasses came in. He said he was a TaskRabbit sent by the New York Observer, whose BetaBeat website has been closely tracking the case.
The four of us were the only news outlets, as far as we saw, to bother going to the courthouse to get the document so our readers would know, as soon as possible, what Kleiner was saying in response to Pao’s charges.
Because we went to the courtroom, we were there when the messenger dropped off the paperwork, when the clerk accepted the filing, and when the records staff made copies for us.
We didn’t see anyone from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or the San Francisco Chronicle. No one from CNN or the local broadcast channels.
The filing is now being scanned and will be made available online. Eventually.
We did hear that some people complained that California’s budget cuts prevented them from getting the Pao filing, because the scanning and uploading process is slower than it used to be, and there’s a backlog.
That may be true, but there was no backlog for those of us who actually showed up at the courthouse.
In between running to and from the courthouse on the day the Pao filing came, we also broke stories based on extensive research, public corporation filings, and exclusive tips. You wouldn’t get those stories anywhere but on Business Insider. We know that’s a major reason why you keep coming back, and we promise to deliver more.
At the same time, we quite honorably picked up on stories broken elsewhere and did sharp synthesis and smart analysis from others’ reporting. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. And it always has been.
All that’s changed is who’s doing it, and who’s doing it best.
This is why digital media is winning.
Because we are doing the work of journalism.