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Breaking News

Side profile of a journalist typing on a typewriter

I’ve had it with breaking news.

Remember the good old days when news was news? As in ‘new’? Doesn’t ‘news’ by definition mean new?

Definition of news according to Websters: new information or a report about something that has happened recently

New stories, new information. That’s news.

Back before the world lost its mind, the only time we heard the term ‘breaking’ was when a report came in that was so compelling, so urgent, that the news narrator literally ‘broke’ into the report he was reading in order to deliver the new news.

Now everything is ‘breaking.’ Same footage of the twister that’s aired for three days. Breaking.

Brain-dead obeisance to the blather issuing from the pursed lips of Donald Trump. Breaking.

Give me a break.

Along with the hype of ‘breaking’ news, as if the announcer’s announcement wasn’t enough, viewers get to see two lines of type along the bottom of the screen, one which runs with headlines and another larger one which says BREAKING. The combination of both lines serves to obscure the most relevant part of whatever image of breaking news appears on the screen. For example, with the tornado funnel tearing through hapless Oklahoma countryside, viewers see the clouds but not the actual point of impact. In that spot is the word “BREAKING.”

I don’t like being treated like a fool. Stop saying everything is breaking. It’s news. Period.

What is wrong with a man or woman sitting quietly behind a desk giving us the news? Remember, anyone who tunes in to watch the news wants the news. There’s no need to hype it with massive curved screens playing through incoherent imagery as the newsperson presents his/her report. Or with repetitive summaries of what they’re going to talk about later in the news cast, repeated each time they cut for commercials. This redundant table of contents eats up time which otherwise could allow for more News.

Remember, that’s why viewers are watching. They want news.

Local stations have been infected with this lunacy and other viral ailments slowly dragging them into irrelevance. I’m embarrassed for them. No longer do we get much about local events, community, or personalities. Instead, we get whatever scandal is hot off the regional police blotter and then the bulk of the half hour devolves into a rehash of national and international news. What about ‘Local’ do you not understand? If someone tunes in to watch local news, what makes you think we want to hear about Washington D.C. or India?

Oh, yes, I understand why. Local stations struggle for enough money to pay their staff and still line the pockets of station owners. The first disposable expense is real journalists who would circulate in their communities and develop stories with depth and meaning. Real journalists would have long term experience in these communities and be able to provide relevant background to the current efforts by county government to regulate free-roaming dogs in rural areas, for example.

Instead local stations attempt to fluff up their market share by hiring young female announcers who fit a certain Barbie look. They have zero institutional memory. Dogs? Huh? Their only job requirement other than speaking clearly (mostly) is to up their sex appeal with low-cut blouses, heavy eye makeup, and tousled hair styles that dip into the corners of their batting eyes.

Please.

The local weather is released in droplets meant to keep viewers hooked from start to finish of the broadcast. Oh, it’s sunny outside. Stay tuned for more. Oh, it might rain tonight. Stay tuned for more. Finally, five minutes before the end of the broadcast, the actual weather forecast is delivered in between cutesy remarks, giggles, and detours into whatever kiddy photo distraction serves as the human touch of the day.

And everything is breaking.

It’s a pathetic slide downhill from the days of David Brinkley or Chet Huntley, Walter Cronkite or even John Chancellor. No wonder Jon Stewart is so greatly mourned. He managed to convey more real news than all the current newscasts combined.

The truly sad thing about all this is that there’s more news than ever that needs to be heard. Donald Trump apparently will be the Republican candidate for President of the United States. If anything speaks to the growing ignorance of the electorate, that does. Where did journalism go off the rails?

What about an informed electorate do media moguls not understand?

According to Wikipedia, journalism is supposed to be “the work and distribution of reports on the interaction of events, facts, ideas, and people that are the “news of the day” and that informs society to at least some degree.”

Here’s some breaking news: journalism is suffering a tortured death.

(Okay, this isn’t breaking news. It’s been a growing cry for decades.)

While I’m venting, can I ask why announcers like Wolf Blitzer have to SHOUT?

I’m not the first to lament the shouting heads feeding off prejudice, hatred, and religious zealotry. Underneath the lack of real local news, the urgent ‘breaking’ of every newsstory, and the immoral stupidity rampant in broadcast ‘journalism’ lies the true agenda: money. Whatever it takes to gain and hold viewers so that more advertisers will pay more money is acceptable.

The nearest to old-school real news is available on the PBS NewsHour. Real actual news, nothing breaking. Reports that tell the whole story. No commercials.

But even here, the viewer data mavens have convinced PBS to create backdrops that move. So while trying to watch the announcer convey messages of vital importance about our political circus, the state of world affairs, and human progress in general, a distracting slow geometry shifts in the background. I assume this is supposed to appease our shrinking attention spans.

Why appease shrinking attention spans?

Why fall to the lowest common denominator?

Can’t we please just have the news?

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2 thoughts on “Breaking News

  1. In the age of numerous entertainment options, tv news has zeroed in on the idea of creating a sense of urgency, or even potential catastrophe. “Watch us, the world is about to end, rely on us to save you”. Police and fire dominate. Cute story at the end, with sports and weather in between. Non breathless news stories are dumped out back with the trash. Did I miss anything?

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