Seth Godin had a great post the other day about “Breaking News:” the habit of news agencies to make every run-of-the-mill story “breaking” in order to goose their ratings. He writes:
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there seems to be a lot more breaking news than there used to be.
The thing is, there’s no more news, just more breaking.
If news is stuff I need to know, want to know, stuff that will help me make better decisions or generally keep me informed, then, no, I’m not noticing more of it.
If breaking is stuff that interrupts a TV interview, flashes across a website, breaks into a radio show or just shows up on Twitter, then yep, there’s a lot more breaking going on.
You can turn your reddit posts or your press releases or your Facebook updates or blog posts into urgent announcements that demand attention. And in the short run, it might work. But then you’ll exhaust your readers. We don’t want any more urgent emails from you.
… like the boy who cried wolf, the villagers aren’t going to come.
Does knowing about something ten seconds or ten minutes faster really matter? Is it worth the adrenalin?
Sorry, wake me up in the morning, not in the middle of the night. Unless it’s actually news.
I couldn’t agree more. When I used to frequent the CNN.com website, I was struck by how often there would be a red bar up top that said something like “Breaking: dog bites man. Details soon…” Like Godin mentioned, it was the boy crying wolf; I learned to ignore the red bar (and eventually learned to ignore the site altogether).
The increase in “breaking news” and the rise of the 24/7 news cycle can have spiritual consequences as well. Following every “breaking” story with bated breath is emotionally exhausting and can leave one with the idea that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket (for almost all “breaking” news is bad news; as they say, “if it bleeds, it leads”). But this is a distorted reality, for news organizations ignore most of “real life”: the daily goings-on in your neighborhood and your parish. They will not report the little acts of charity that heaven rejoices in, nor the slow path to sanctity that many people follow. That is reality, much more than the latest Hollywood divorce or political crisis. We just need to get our heads out of the “breaking” news cycle and into the world around us.