Thursday, October 4, 2018

When does "breaking news" become broken???

Watching local television news the past year or more, I noticed that there's been a lot of "breaking news" stories.
    The usual red colored title slide, the bold words "Breaking News," and the audio swish, whoosh or drum, and then the anchor says "here's breaking news, just out of ....(naming a town).." and so on.
    But as you watch the different regular and ad-slot updates continuing through the day, that "breaking news"  is repeated over and over again. Sometimes it continues to be repeated in the evening newscasts.
    Anyone with any kind of sense of normality realizes that a news story only "breaks" one time.  From then on, it's either a repeat  or an update. It can't break every half hour through the day.
    Once it breaks, it has been broken.
    Usually a story "breaks" with few details. But it doesn't "break" again because of new details.  It is an "update."
    Your local TV channels are trying to razzle-dazzle you that they are "first," or "the best" with the news, by conning you into thinking a new story just broke when it's really old and just as a new update.
    It becoming entertainment and no longer really news. They want to keep you on their channel, and not to drift to another station, so everything has to appear new, or fresh, with music, sound effects and visual effects -- sometimes the visual effects or video clips shown over narration are so out of touch it looks like an outright joke to others in the business of journalism.
    We have become the consumers of information that, not our fault, doesn't even match up to the criteria of true journalism.
    It used to be you should meet the basic questions of journalism: who, what, where, how, when ... and possibly why.  The who, what, where, how and when used to be the basic criteria to let a story run and give you that information.  It may take a later update ... sometimes days later ... to explain a "why."
    Now, so a TV broadcaster can create an impression that it knows everything going on before anyone else, you'll be fed a "what" and nothing else, or possible coupled with a vague "where."
    Newspapers always know it as fast as a TV or radio newscaster, but since there are deadlines for printing a paper, they have time to gather answers to most of the "w" questions before dishing it out to you.
    Unfortunately, with no deadline looming for Web site publication, newspapers now are also starting to drift into the land of "don't know much yet" journalism.
    Channel 8 in Lancaster is an example of the outlandish. It has 2.5 hours straight of newscasts in late afternoon and early evening, usually divided into half-hour segments although they claim it's 3 separate newscasts. one at 4, one at 5, and one at 6. The only difference is the so-called celebrity anchors are changed around to make things appear different.
    But the same stories are repeated and repeated again, If they label one "breaking," it's "breaking news" several times and again in later broadcasts.
    The cruelest thing they do to you is deliberately leave out some information on a story for one program and add it to the next program -- and say so by saying something like "there's more details in the 6 o'clock news" -- to force you to spend another hour of sitting and watching only to find out the extra details which probably were minimal at best.
    They need the ratings and that's how they con you into watching repeating stories. The higher ratings, the more commercial sponsors they can get and the higher price they can charge for commercials to make money. Lots of money.
    If the TV broadcasters took journalism serious, you'd have one "breaking story" ID only for a particular story and follow-ups or up-dates from then on. So when you see the fiery-red "Breaking Story" on your screen, you truly are getting something new just occurring.
     Only then you can trust your TV news hacks.