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 by Jon Burras
Breaking News
     You might have noticed over the last few years the bright banner "Breaking News" highlighting a significant portion of television news stories. This message alerts us that there is something important that we need to pay attention to and we must not miss it. This alarm system is not unique to one media outlet but is used by most if not all of them. "Breaking News" has been an important media tool over the course of our lifetimes.
     The 9-11 attacks in New York and Washington D. C. were considered breaking news. The Northridge earthquake was labeled as breaking news. The Mount St. Helen's volcanic eruption was breaking news. In years past, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 would have been considered breaking news. An event of significant magnitude or vital importance that may or may not directly affect you would be considered breaking news. This could be an act of nature, a political bombshell or a world tragedy.
     Unfortunately the news media has accepted the term "Breaking News" to mean almost anything these days. There is no longer a distinction between breaking news and ordinary news. In fact, the news media has become so tarnished that real journalism has left only to be replaced with sensationalism and gossip. When turning on your television news channel these days you might get some news, maybe even some important "breaking news", but the bulk of the content is more like gossip, sensationalism, sexualization, advertisement, political sarcasm, drama or entertainment.
     How often are we told that a celebrity break-up is breaking news? We are enticed when a congressman gives a speech that this is breaking news. A passenger on an airline is drunk and needs to be escorted off the plane by police. Is this not breaking news as well? A gang shooting, a car chase on the freeway, a tree limb falling on top of an empty car or three ducklings crossing the road are all stories that might be labeled with the "Breaking News" banner.
     The job of the news media is to do what all businesses doŚmake money. They capture your attention by creating sneaky tricks and gimmicks. This is how they lure customers in like a man in a gorilla suit in front of a furniture store. The product that is being sold is information and you are the paying customer. When you pay your cable bill you are buying information. The over-use of the "Breaking News" banner is essentially false advertising.
     If you sold a car at your car lot for more than it was advertised in the newspaper or on the internet you would be guilty of false advertising and subject to criminal prosecution. Why are news outlets allowed to misrepresent the value of their product? These media outlets are over-hyping the value of their content and misrepresenting its actual value. Why aren't television media anchors and producers not arrested for this act and hauled off in handcuffs?
     Some say that the 1st Amendment gives television stations the right to say whatever they want to about the product that they are delivering. Not so fast. A Wall Street investor cannot just make flippant claims about a stock's value without going to jail. Is it any wonder why the term "fake news" has become so prevalent as of late? News media outlets are attempting to lure you in with as much seduction and drama as possible. The media has an even lower public confidence level than the President of the Untied States, just a few points above the lowly ratings of Congress.
      Could it be that the words "Breaking News" have been repeated so frequently that we might just stop listening? We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf too often from Aesop's Fables and what happened to him (his sheep were eaten by the wolf). Soon we might stop listening to anything the news media is reporting because we have become weary of false alarms.
     Perhaps someone in the digital world will create an enhanced smart television where we can set the filter settings on it ourselves. We might be able to filter out celebrity gossip stories, advertisements from television sponsors, mundane non-important stories and car chases. You might be able to view a sixty-minute news broadcast in less than ten minutes. What really matters and what is really important in our lives might not really be that much after all. Perhaps Congress needs to write a law describing what qualifies as "Breaking News" like there are laws for what is considered "organic" or "natural".
     Don't be fooled by the "Breaking News" banner across the bottom of your television screen. In all likelihood, it is a false alarm. The more people who begin to turn away from this junk news the more news media outlets will begin to suffer in advertising dollars. In a short time it will be the news stations that begin to wonder as to what has happened to all of their sheep.