I’m getting very annoyed with the way local media is abusing the term “breaking news”. To my mind, stories must meet these criteria to be termed “Breaking News”
- The story must have just become known,
- and be of an urgent or emergency nature
- or supremely important
I’m a Boston Globe subscriber, and we watch the Channel 5 news. Both are bothering me with their misuses of “breaking news”.
The Globe sends out breaking news emails, and they’re pretty good about doing it in timely fashion, but I’m really starting to wonder about their news judgement. For example, Friday, I got an email from them: “Breaking News Alert: Baker promises state funding to offset any Planned Parenthood cuts”. This is not urgent, this is not an emergency, it doesn’t rise to the level of importance I would expect —and it is done via an email, which means it’s an interruption. Lately, they’ve been supplementing it with “morning”, “midday” and “afternoon” reads.
I do read the news. But it if isn’t pressing, I’d prefer to read it on my own schedule.
They also send out a morning digest of the headlines— that, I do appreciate and enjoy, because it comes on a schedule and is not an interruption. I also do appreciate the breaking new alerts that truly are breaking; for example the alert they sent out last week of a major problem on the expressway. They weren’t doing the email alerts at the time of the Marathon bombing, but it would have been entirely appropriate then.
WCVB misuses the term in another way, to promote news stories that have already been broken. This weekend’s example would be the fire in Warwick that happened overnight, but was still being described as “breaking” on the 6 PM newscast the following day. It’s especially annoying when there is nothing new to the story, and they’ve been telling the story all afternoon on their various newscasts. If there is nothing new to add, and the story is more than a couple of hours old, it is no longer “breaking”.
The term “breaking news” used to imply some sort of emergency. If news organizations continue to abuse it, like the boy who cried “Wolf”, the public will learn to ignore it.