"Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again..."

Location: Tampa, FL, United States

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Death of Breaking News

Cable news is now a continuous stream of breaking news. A "breaking news" story has an indefinite shelf life now that only terminates upon the birth of the next breaking news story. Of the past few months the only legitimate breaking news story was Sully's adventure into the Hudson River at the helm of US Airways Flight 1594 with 155 prople on board, with all surviving. Even though Continental commuter Flight 3407 crashed into a house near Buffalo, NY and killed all 49 people aboard this story won't generate enough water cooler conversation--hence lacks qualification as breaking news. Plane crashes happen often enough now to no longer command people's rapt attention as they once did. The 1937 Hindenberg burn and crash killed roughly about the same number of people (35) that died on Flight 3407 yet it counted as breaking news as this bloated zeppelin was an aviation marvel in its time. Radio reporter Herbert Morrison gave a blow-by-blow account of the zepplelin's demise that serves as a priori evidence that the shock and widespread interest over its demise merited "breaking news" status. Compare Morrison's reaction to that of the calm demeanor of the cable talking heads who covered the Flight 3407 crash.

Breaking news used to be for events such as 9-11 (2001), the Oklahoma City bombing (1995), Matt Drudge's "exposure" of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal (1998), the ATF storming the Branch Davidian ranch (1993), John Hinckley, Jr. trying to assassinate Ronald Reagan (1981), the tsunami that pummeled Thailand and elsewhere (2004) or other like-events. Now it's for a car chase in LA, a ware house fire, Venzuelans voting to scrap term limits, an ice storm in Minnesota, etc., etc.

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