"Does all weather have to be severe?" Is breaking news either breaking or news a day later? These are questions local TV News executives faced at a recent panel discussion in Pittsburgh earlier this month, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (hat tip, Lost Remote). But it could just as well describe media as a whole, and cable news in particular, which in many cases hypes car chases, missing person cases and sensational crimes in order to grab people's attentions. Here's how the local executives defended the "breaking news" practice:
It's just that when they have to choose between those two constituencies, satisfying their employer's drive for profits through ratings often wins out.Here's another newsflash for you – don't expect "breaking news" to end anytime soon. You heard it here first – we hope.
WPXI news director Corrie Harding said the breaking news bug afflicts TV stations because research shows that's what people want to see. "They want to see live events, they want to see the latest, they want you to be the most proficient news operation at getting them the information that will get them prepared first," he said.
WTAE news director Bob Longo acknowledged "some people use it more than they should" and went on to rap the definition of breaking news used by a former Pittsburgh news director (KDKA's Al Blinke) who defined it as any news viewers haven't seen yet. But Longo and others also defended breaking news as something he didn't invent but has to live with.
"The first three letters of news are new," Longo said. "Everybody does it, and I'm not going to sit up here and say we won't do it tomorrow or that you won't see it on all three TV stations three times between 5 and 6:30 tonight."