Breaking News?

Small-town-newsHave you noticed that CNN Breaking News items have become increasingly irrelevant? Not only does CNN routinely report events and occurrences of, shall we say, lesser importance, but they seem positively fixated on the medical conditions and/or death of obscure people and other perfectly mundane information. The multiple breaking news reports of ex-Detroit Lions lineman and occasional actor, Alex Karras’s imminent death are recent cases in the point.

But, and I’m speaking from the heart here, my entire weekend was ruined when CNN Breaking News reported the passing of TV and radio personality Gary Collins at 2.15pm EDT this Saturday. Oh my god, Gary Collins is gone? How will we go on?

If, like me, you sighed and wondered aloud, “Who?”, allow me to provide some filler (as we journos like to say). Mr. Collins was best known for his starring roles in such legendary TV series as ‘The Sixth Sense’ (I knew about the movie, but had no idea there was a short-lived TV show of the same name). And, hang on tight, Collins also starred in TV’s ‘The Wackiest Ship in the Army.’  Wow!

The problem with reporting the deaths of obscure actors and jocks is that is undermines the importance of relaying information about important events. So, the more times I’m pelted with a non-breaking news item such as Lindsay Lohan’s latest misdeed (and, btw, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences really should present Ms. Lohan with a Lifetime Arraignment Award), the more likely I am to overlook, say, a mass terrorist attack in Kabul.

A few PR trade publications do the same thing. My in-box is routinely filled with such breathtaking news developments as:
-    ‘Porter’s Smith moves to Burson to head Global Health Care Practice!’
-    ‘Record number of entries received for 2012 Awards Program (including some 576 alone from Edelman!)’
-    ‘Idaho Potato Board awards $23 million, five-year account, to Barlow Back 40 Communications!’

Such watered-down news items are of interest solely to Mr. Smith, the publication coffers and a few hundred spud farmers, respectively.

Our news outlets need to show more restraint in defining what constitutes breaking news. While I feel badly for the family and friends of Gary Collins, I feel worse for what used to be known as responsible journalism. The Fourth Estate is slowly, but surely, dying of self-inflicted wounds. Bogus breaking news items are just one of the many reasons why individuals and organizations alike have decided to bypass online and offline media entirely. Like me, they want their breaking news to be taken seriously.

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