William Boot, a young man who lives in genteel poverty, far from the iniquities of London, contributes nature notes to Lord Copper’s Daily Beast, a national daily newspaper. He is dragooned into becoming a foreign correspondent, when the editors mistake him for John Courtney Boot, a fashionable novelist and a remote cousin. He is sent to Ishmaelia, a fictional state in East Africa, to report on the crisis there.
Lord Copper believes it “a very promising little war” and proposes “to give it fullest publicity”. Despite his total ineptitude, Boot accidentally gets the journalistic “scoop” of the title. When he returns, the credit goes to the other Boot and William is left to return to his bucolic pursuits, much to his relief.