Tom Madden
Tom Madden

Look, Harry, there’s breaking news.

Hey news departments, give us a break from all the breaking news?  The term is barked so often on FOX or CNN, its impact may be breaking down. You’re driving us nuts! 

"We now bring you breaking news...." says the network host, but isn’t it a tad gratuitous, don’t you think, when most likely it broke multiple times already?  

So how many times can you be breaking news before it starts to sound like you’re breaking wind?  

Why must there be so much breakage on television?  These days FOX, CNN start practically every new segment with breaking news!    

Here’s my idea how to restore some of the credibility and impact that breaking news is losing from over use.    

I suggest broadcasters begin assigning color to BREAKING NEWS such as BREAKING NEWS RED (code red) for news being reported for the first time that will have major consequences on peoples’ lives.   

Or Breaking News Yellow for news not quite red or green yet.  Or how about calling devastating happenings SHATTERING NEWS or stay tuned for CATASTROPHIC NEWS or here’s an audience grabber: ATTENTION: CATACLYSMIC ALERT.  

And let’s not forget about that lion in the newsroom: LATEST RUSSIAN COLLUSION INVESTIGATION NEWS.

If some country fires a nuclear missile at us are we really going to announce the story as simply breaking news?  Is there’s no difference between breaking a toe and breaking your neck?

Where did this hackneyed expression breaking news come from anyway?  Let me give you the breaking news.   

It started back in those days where there were single all-purpose channels and any news which was deemed to be of such importance that it had an immediate effect on people’s lives was broadcast by interrupting (breaking) the scheduled programming of that channel, and thus was born the now overworked banner breaking news.

Breaking news, interchangeably termed late-breaking news and also known as a special report or special coverage or news bulletin, is a current issue that broadcasters feel warrants the interruption of scheduled programming to report its details. 

Its use is also assigned allegedly to the most significant story of the moment or a story that is being covered live. It could be a story that is simply of wide interest to viewers, but has little impact or significance otherwise. 

But how many times has breaking news been used after the news organization has already reported on the story?  That’s the problem.  Too often!  

When a story has not been reported on previously, the graphic and phrase "Just In" is sometimes used to suggest there’s new information.

As TV stations grew in number, so did the competition for viewers. 

Around the late 70's, a new generation of broadcasters had no knowledge of what breaking meant until some "bean-counter" thought it would be a great word to alert the audience and spike ratings. 

So, it went from being studio engineer jargon to an on-air declaration, so overused today that I’m afraid it has lost its oomph.

And now BREAKING NEWS.  My latest book “Is There Enough Brady in Trump to Win the inSUPERable BOWL?” is available on Amazon.

***

Tom Madden, the "quintessential" spin man, is founder and chairman of TransMedia Group.