*This* is breaking news?

June 5, 2009 — Leave a comment

What merits breaking news?
All emotion and empathy aside, from a journalistic perspective, do you think David Carradine’s death merited a CNN Breaking News Alert today?

For some perspective, the “breaking news” txt alert I received about Carradine’s potential suicide was preceded by one about the Air France flight that killed 228 people.

Other recent alerts I’ve found valuable focused on same-sex legislation rulings, the recent Supreme Court appointee and swine flu outbreak news.

I’m not sure a b-level actor’s death merits a worldwide blast. After all, there’s Twitter and celeb blogs for this kind of stuff. Again, I’m not saying anything about Carradine. I’m focusing on the media (and media consumer) mindset.

Just consider how many A and B-level actors there are in the country. They will all die at some point, and that cannot possibly be a “stop-what-you’re-doing-right-now” kind of newsworthy.

Oh, yes. Of course it has been worse….

In mid-April I got this CNN Breaking News text at 2:15 a.m.: “Ashton Kutcher is first to reach 1 million followers in Twitter contest with CNN.” Seriously? That was a sad day for journalism, my friends.

Harnessing the obligatory cliche: Dictionary.com defines “breaking news” as: news that is happening and being reported or revealed at this moment.

Given the omniscience and diligence of the Internet age, it’s hard for news not to be “breaking” these days.

With that said, CNN actually has staked out the term “breaking news” all for their own. They are #1 on a Google Search and include the term in their site description and network branding:

cnn_breaking

Despite the branding of one network, “breaking news” is a broad classification that’s totally subjective, and we all know it doesn’t necessarily inform what’s worth interrupting primetime TV programming or sending out a 3 a.m. txt.

In fact, let me drop some Spiderman wisdom here: “With great power comes great responsibility.” If you’re going to own “breaking,” you better make it timely AND relevant.

News folks, here are some unrequested recommended guidelines…
Local events newsworthy enough to merit breaking into primetime television/radio programming:

  • Tornado in Saint Paul = yes
  • Jason DeRusha winning Emmy = no (sorry Jason)

National events newsworthy enough to send me a txt alert at 3 a.m.

  • Chance for millions to die from flu outbreak = yes
  • Janet Jackson having a mole removed (despite it’s unarguable newsworthiness) = no

In the meantime, I’m keeping my “breaking news” text alerts, but until I can customize my notification settings to filter out the fluff, I reserve the right to complain. I’m sure that’s no newsflash for anyone.

UPDATE:
Chaska Herald editor (and “real” journalist) Mark Olson left this comment re: the txt:
“They must have been prepping last night’s Larry King interview with Quentin Tarantino, Rob Schneider, Michael Madsen and Carradine’s manager. (What an odd bunch that was — the creative minds behind “Pulp Fiction” and “Duece Bigalow” talking at the same time.)”

Now that’s just pathetic.

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