BREAKING NEWS: made you look!

I think it’s safe to say, following the recent riots in the UK, that many of us were glued to our screens as we watched the 24- hour news channels play a small selection of amateur videos, on repeat, of the horrific incidents taking place on our streets.

Round and round it went, as the news anchor shifted between piece-to-camera and cyclic interviews of the channel’s seemingly limited ‘men on the ground’.

I can’t speak for others but what really frustrated me, as the news played in the background on the television, was that the ubiquitous banner ‘BREAKING NEWS’ appeared throughout the entire broadcast.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but surely the idea is that one breaks the news and if no substantial update is provided within a certain time period, one removes the banner until new information is available.

My biggest issue with this is that there was breaking news to be found.

Despite David Cameron taking to the microphone, as the violence simmered down, to blame social media for catalysing the coordination of the unrest, these online channels, supposedly utilised by the conspiratorial underworld, were broadcasting the ‘BREAKING NEWS’ that major media channels should, and audaciously claimed to, have been covering.

Journalists, such as the great Paul Lewis of the Guardian, were physically ploughing through scenes reminiscent of Mad Max, capturing the events as they unfolded, on whichever medium they had to hand, and sharing this information via social media channels, such as Twitter.

This provided a news outlet, yes, but, more importantly, a public service that I’m quite sure kept many people safe from harm’s way.

So, what value does the ‘BREAKING NEWS’ banner actually bring to a story?

It certainly serves the channel well, capturing the attention of viewers and holding them, fixed to their screens, ensuring the ratings are maintained.

From personal experience, it also serves the egos of the newsroom journalist when terms like ‘breaking’ and ‘exclusive’, an issue for another post, start getting thrown around.

But isn’t it too often used as a misguided and lazy idiom, misleading viewers in a way that, in many arenas, would not be accepted by the respective regulating bodies?

What are your thoughts?

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