When it comes to the media, breaking news is one of its most excited features. It seems that when something significant happens, the television and newspaper editors want to be the first to know about it. CANADANEWSMEDIA But are they? Is breaking news necessary, or should it be relegated to a separate category altogether?
In reality, breaking news is an event that is developing slowly, almost like an episode of Law and Order. You never see the person performing the crime right before their arrest, but you sense there is something fishy going on, even if you can’t see with your own eyes. The same thing goes for breaking news stories. They develop over time, often with limited information, and it then becomes very public record.
For instance, a major national story, like the shooting of the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback, or the terror attack in Paris last November, will generate a lot more coverage than a local story, like a tornado in Blairsville, Alabama. It would cause even more content if the story were on some cable network, like CNN or ESPN. But because local news programming is less likely to air a breaking news story before it becomes a big story, it’s not easy for the networks to get the word out that a breaking news story is occurring.
Even though local stations get more overall coverage, they also have to compete with other local stations for any given story. If a breaking news story breaks on a station simultaneously, other local stations may go unnoticed. If it fails on a different station simultaneously, several other stations may get picked up, making it an exciting announcement. The same goes for any game or weather update, which can be picked up by multiple television stations from around the country.
This means that when the local story breaks, whether it’s a breaking news report or a local sports report, it gets picked up by at least one of the broadcast media. Often several of these outlets will report on the same story to ensure that the world gets the breaking news story first. But even if only one network or channel picks up the story, other news channels and websites will pick up the story, usually leading to even more coverage than the original network or channel got. Breaking news coverage on local channels is powerful and very popular, but it can also be under-reported and sometimes inaccurate because of competition from other media outlets.
A lot of advertisers also like to use breaking reports during prime time to increase awareness and interest. When a newscast comes on, advertisers will often buy airtime based on its importance and coverage. This gives them an edge in promotions and getting their products and services promoted on prime time television.