The term has become so commonplace in recent years that I am getting sick and tired of hearing it. Turn on any news station or watch most any television newscast and you are likely to hear the phrase shouted at you or streamed across the screen, suggesting you better prepare yourself for a falling meteor or the eruption of a new volcano outside Roanoke or Front Royal.
With your attention fully focused on the screen, you then discover the critical news story will be reported right after the commercial break, so the station can tout the newest hemorrhoid medication to viewers first. So much for a major news event that brings time to a standstill.
It did not take long for the phrase to catch on with TV newscasters. Some, such as Wolf Blitzer, have even developed a delivery style that suggests some major events have just occurred so you better pay attention. Gasping and breathing hard to give viewers the impression he just ran into the newsroom with sheets of paper in hand looking for the closest microphone, Blitzer, Lou Dobbs and their compatriots have taken news reporting to another, hard-to-accept level. Dobbs loves to intersperse his comments into a news story, calling Congressmen who do not toe the party line idiots or dumbells, while those who boot-step in line with him and his thinking are geniuses.
To be fair, network newsrooms generally have not hopped on the “breaking news” bandwagon. If something worthy of the term happens, ABC, CBS and NBC resort to an interruption of current programming and a newscasters’ update on what just transpired.
But the news channels — CNN, MSNBC and FOX News — seem to feel anything, especially in this Trump era, is worth the special designation.
(To be accurate, it should be pointed out that Fox News channel has substituted Fox News Alert for the Breaking News designation, probably because it gives the network another chance to put its name before the viewer.)
What happened to the days when all major events were simply reported by an interruption of the program being aired with a screen shouting “BULLETIN” alerting the audience that something of significance has just occurred. No matter that “Survivor” or “The Voice” was going to be disrupted.
While on the subject, I’d like someone to define “news” to me. I grew up believing news was information about something that happens. Lately anchors on the networks have sprinkled their national evening newscasts with teasers, telling viewers to tune in tomorrow night when a report on new dental floss will be aired. Or, better yet, see the rest of an interview or major report by going to the network’s website. If it’s not worth relating now, it ain’t news, plain and simple.
Since I watch the NBC and CBS nightly news faithfully, I am taken aback by what networks try to get away with. See some story on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” or “60 Minutes” and you might see the same report on Monday night’s news feed. There was a time when the news department led the way in network programming. That day, unfortunately, is long gone.
I read somewhere that a high percentage of folks in this country get all their news from Comedy Central or from HBO’s Bill Maher. Maybe that fact justifies labeling everything “breaking news” to some folks, but not to me.
Give me the days of Walter Cronkite or Huntley/Brinkley. They reported news the way it should be reported.
Let’s give this topic at least a nine on our blood boiling scale.
Winslow recently moved to Williamsburg, but has written his Curmudgeon Report for more than a dozen years. He wonders how rapidly your blood is boiling on this issue? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org.