Breaking news is breaking…

When I consider breaking news I think of catastrophe. I think about the very worst possible pieces of news that could be shared with the general public, such as terrorist attacks, plane crashes, train collisions and multi-car pile ups. I think of mass suffering and the potential for said situation to affect people I know.

Breaking news, as far as I’m concerned, is news that comes in very briefly at first and holds so little information that you can’t help but build up your own picture as to what has happened.

‘Bomb has exploded…’

‘Shots fired…’

‘Dozens injured…’

‘Trains collide…’

‘Children dead…’

All you know, at the start, is that something has occurred. You don’t know exactly who is involved, how many people are injured or killed, and the location is sometimes difficult to determine.

The news bulletin or piece often leaves you with more question than you had in the beginning.

What actually happened?

Where exactly in Bolton/Bristol/London/insert other location, has this incident happened?

How many people are injured? How many people are dead?

Is it adults, children or a mixture of both who have been affected?

Is someone else to blame? If so, who?

How do you find out if your loved one(s) are involved in the incident?

A piece of breaking news often leaves me feeling saddened, it makes me fear for people who I know live somewhere near (though probably not as near as I think) to the incident, and it makes me wonder how the world, or at least that area, will ever be the same again.

Whether the news breaks during a bulletin, or disrupts scheduling programmes, it doesn’t matter, because the news is important regardless of what else is available to watch. Time will move on eventually, but for now, we must know exactly what is going on.

When I think of breaking news I think about the recent incident in Canada where a train carrying oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 and devastating a small town. The train crash in Spain where the driver had been speeding, until his train collided with a concrete wall, killing 79. The floods in Boscastle, Cornwall, in 2004 that completed destroyed parts of the village and water swept cars from the car park down the central street. The 2012 shooting in a cinema in Aurora, USA, where a man dressed in combat gear fired at innocent cinema goers, killing 12.

Each and every one of the above incidents changed lives, they broke apart communities, they affected everyday people. They may not have happened to you, or I, but the fact they happened in ‘normal’ communities, to ‘normal’ people makes them so close to home and we can’t help but feel shocked.

Some of the less shocking, or heartbreaking, stories can be considered breaking news but I feel like they all have the same sort of thing in common.

They all either directly affect us, or they happen to people in communities just like ours, which makes us feel that same level of empathy that we might feel if it was happening to a community nearby.

When Barack Obama won his first Presidential election, it spread across the world. As the new President of the United States we could feel the glee and celebration of those who had voted in, we could see that this man’s new position was ground breaking, and we could see the potential for it to change the lives of ordinary people on the other side of the world.

The deaths of Saddam Hussain and Osama Bin Laden were particularly important to the world, because they showed us that we can defeat the bad guy. The world can be made a safer place and our countries helped to make that happen. We had freed many people from the oppression of their lives and we had helped to avenge many people’s untimely deaths.

It’s hard work, I imagine, continuing to find stories such as these to share with the world. How often do military troops succeed in their goal? How often do major transportation accidents occur? The answer is, not very often.

You’d think that, because of the infrequency, of such major events in the world, we wouldn’t see or hear the BREAKING NEWS headline so often. Right?

Wrong.

Let’s take a look at some of the headlines listed on the BBC Breaking News Twitter feed (the place to establish exactly what is breaking news as opposed to just news):

‘Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai to go on trial on Thursday, accused of bribery and abuse of power.’

How much do we already know about this story? I would say we already know enough. The fact that he has been disgraced with accusations of bribery and abuse of power suggest that we have perhaps heard all about this person before. So why is his trial date breaking news?

‘Divers find bodies of 2 out of 18 sailors on Indian submarine hit by explosion in Mumbai.’

The fact that divers have found some bodies suggest that the submarine was hit at a time before this news ‘broke’, the explosion can be considered breaking news, but a follow up on the number of survivors/dead?

‘UK retail sales rose by 1.1% in July, up 3% year-on-year.’

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of constantly hearing figures on the rising and falling of figures. Whether it’s the unemployed, retail or growth, we hear new figures ever month or every few months. I’m not sure what’s breaking about the latest figures?

That’s not to say that they always get it wrong, the BBC Breaking News Twitter feed do share some important pieces. The death of the Sky News cameraman, for example, was a shock. As is the number of people killed in Egypt in their recent troubles.

I think that the big difference between news and breaking news is very minimal these days, if it’s new, it’s somehow breaking and if it’s actually breaking, then it’s big enough to take television programmes off for hours whilst news reporters milk the story for all that it’s worth.

So is breaking news really breaking news anymore? Sometimes, yes, other times, are you kidding me?

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