BREAKING NEWS . . . AND BOY, IS THIS NEWS BROKEN!!
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the story of the boy who cried “wolf”. If not, I’ll refresh your memory.
The tale concerns a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock. When a wolf actually does appear, the villagers do not believe the boy’s cries for help, and the flock is destroyed. The moral at the end of the story shows that this is how liars are not rewarded: even if they tell the truth, no one believes them. BTW, it’s one of Aesop’s fables. He’s the guy who wrote the one about the rabbit and the turtle. You remember, back in Ancient days it was “BREAKING NEWS!”
THE FACTS, MA’AM, JUST THE FACTS
I believe when the authorities finally caught up with the kid down at the Agora Lounge in Mid-town, he was arrested, booked over at Central Lockup in ancient Athens and thrown in the slammer until a week later when his bail of one thousand Drachmas was posted by Socrates (or So-Krates as Bill and Ted so amusingly called him in their “Excellent Adventure“). Back then it took a little longer to release prisoners because photography hadn’t yet been invented and it took a while for the police artists to chisel mug shots.
NEWS REPORTERS WHO CRY WOLF
This brings me to my latest peeve: Reporters who “Cry Wolf”. Now, I’m not talking about guys and gals who stand on the corner of the street and actually scream “Wolf”. That would be silly. Most modern day cities don’t have wolves, at least not the kind that eat sheep. I’m talking about the news media in general who over-use that trite and tiring phrase “we have Breaking News.” I ask you, how many times can a story be breaking? Maybe I’m being a little too anal here, but it seems to me that the first time the news about some current incident is reported, it’s been broken. That is, it’s been released to an unknowing, unware audience. It can’t be breaking news every five minutes for three hours steady.
It’s even worse when the news agency doesn’t know enough about the story, but they “Break” it anyway and tell the public that details are sketchy and they believe that so and so is happening. Again I ask, “Is that news reporting?”
THE PLOT THICKENS
Here’s the kind of reporting I’m talking about:
It’s 9:30 PM and the tv is tuned to the latest episode of the hit reality show, “Who Can Eat Themselves To Death?” when the program is abruptly interrupted.
BREAKING NEWS BREAKING NEWS BREAKING NEWS
CUT TO WOODY LYE IN THE NEWS STUDIO OF KRAP-TV: KRAP has just learned of a Breaking News story about a possible kidnap/hostage situation here in town. We now take you to the corner of Carrier and Pigeon where our crack reporter Ewebin Hadd is reporting on a suspected kidnap/hostage situation. What do we know at this point, Ewebin?
EWEBIN HADD ON LOCATION SOMEWHERE IN TOWN: Well, Will, we don’t know much, but we have been told by an unconfirmed source that an unkown suspected kidnapper may have abducted an unknown number of either children or adults to this location behind me that may or may not be the home of the suspected unknown kidnapper.
WOODY LYE: It’s Woody, Ewebin. Do we know if the unknown suspected kidnapper is armed?
EWEBIN HADD: Well Willy, we have been told by what appears to be the police that they don’t know if the possible perpetrator of this suspected kidnap/hostage situation is possibly armed or not. They suspect that he/she is . . . and I have to add the “she” because we don’t know if the suspected unknown kidnapper/hostage taker is a male or a female . . . we think that the suspected kidnapper/hostage taker is armed because we heard from an anonymous source who thinks that he knows the neighbor of the first cousin of a man who once dated a woman who spoke to the possible perp over the phone about having some pickle packing done for her.
WILL LYE: It’s Woody, Ewebin, Woody. So what you are saying Ewebin is that it is unknown if a possible pickle packing perpetrator is packing a pistol. Is that what I’m hearing, Ewebin?
EWEBIN HADD: Well Willywood, we only know what the police know, which at this point is not a whole lot. All they can do is assume that a crime has been committed, or will be committed, because they received an anonymous tip that something big was going to happen in the house behind me tonight. That’s all we think that we know at this time Will.
WOODY LYE: Woody, Ewebin, Woody. My name is Woody. W-O-O-D-Y. Soooooo. Okay Ewebin. Thank you for your report, just keep us informed and we’ll continue to break this story.
EWEBIN HADD: Well Wil . . . er, Wooly, we’ll keep you well informed. Reporting live for KRAP from somewhere in town, Ewebin Hadd. Back to you Willoody.
DEVELOPING STORY DEVELOPING STORY DEVELOPING STORY
Then after three to four hours of constantly bombarding the tv viewers and radio listeners with this “Breaking News”, the story becomes a “DEVELOPING STORY”. This goes on for about about eight to ten hours in the Developing Story phase. After ten hours or so it’s determined that Ewebin Hadd was standing in front of the Fraternity House of I Felta Thi at State University. And the possible kidnapping/hostage situation . . . two words, PANTY RAID! Need I say more?
JUST DESSERTS, MA’AM, JUST DESSERTS
Turns out that Ewebin Hadd was not a “crack” reporter, but a reporter on “crack”. He’s now at a five-thousand watt AM station in West Nowhere, Oklahoma . . . we think. EWEBIN HADD . . . You just gotta love him!
GET A NEW CATCH PHRASE
Now granted, the above was a dramatization and not an actual news story, although it could have been. My point is, when does a story cease to be “Breaking News”? Does the term “Breaking News” repeated ad nausem entice news junkies to want more and watch harder?
McDonald’s Hamburgers doesn’t run the same ad for more than a specified amount of time. The reason, researchers have found that after hearing and seeing the same commercial for an extended period of time, viewers become blase’ and lose interest in the advertiser and their products. News is a product for broadcasters, their biggest profit maker. Their station, whether tv or radio, is their outlet, their restaurant where we go to “buy” their products. They need to take a page out of McDonald’s How To Manual and change their method of advertising periodically. Get new catch phrases!
So the next time you are listening to the news on radio or watching local tv news, keep track of how many times the “newspersons” use those two, worn out, hack phrases, BREAKING NEWS and DEVELOPING STORY. You’ll see what I mean. Wood I LYE to you?
Randy Looney is a periodic free lance contributor to cONTEMPORARY mUSINGS and is rumored to have played too much college football while not wearing a helmet.
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