I’ve ranted about the expression “Breaking News!” before. But like any issue I confront, it only gets worse.
So it is with this one. Nowadays, all the networks, without exception, open each and every newscast with that worn-out expression. Obviously, the anchormen and -women have been ordered to start with their robust “BREAKING NEWS” declaration as a way of contriving drama and immediacy, even if the top story happened hours ago. It’s the handiwork of the marketing consultants who rule TV reporting, hucksters whose job it is to improve ratings by trivializing journalism.
Sooner or later, one of the network bosses will realize that the phrase “breaking news” will have gotten stale or even moldy. Look for them to come up with embellishments, like the sound of china shattering, or even a new cliche. How about “OMG-WTF!”?
You must admit, that one has a certain ring to it, definitely with the younger generation of viewers whom the broadcast bosses are desperately seeking. The pursuit is a waste of time, since most of them are not paying attention because they’re too busy trying to find love.
The only defense of the oldie-but-goodie hype is that “Breaking News” isn’t hype at all. Much of the news these days is about a country breaking up, fracturing before the leadership of President Donald Trump, just as surely as a great glacier that began long ago is breaking up because of the climate change that Trump and all the other deniers insist isn’t happening. They continue with policies that accelerate the demise of planet Earth, as opposed to saving the world by using human ingenuity. Ingenuity is costlier and harder work than the few wealthy, selfish rulers of the energy interests want to expend. In Donald Trump they have a pliable dupe, one who has become convinced that the increased intensity of forest fires and evidence of flooding to come are all a “hoax.”
Cooperating with the breakup of the country, and for that matter all countries, are the members of an inept opposition, meaning the Democrats. Their hearts may be in the right place about the vital issues of the day, but their minds are not when it comes to countering the corrupt regime in power. Democrats waver between sputtering in outrage and becoming a laughingstock as they go through the motions of putting together a ticket to try to depose Trump.
They are no match for a president who, like the news consultants, has no regard for the nation they all pretend to be concerned about. All the ratings gimmickry replaces solid reporting of important stories and leaves us all vulnerable to the misinformation. That in turn burns unrestrained through social media. These nihilists have no scruples, and they are all able to thrive because the population is poorly informed, a citizenry that doesn’t believe it’s worth the effort.
The biggest problem for those who want to replace Donald Trump is an intensity gap. His millions of supporters are passionate about their grievances and have a leader who knows how to exploit them. The opposition seems intent on sapping the passion out of their natural followers. If they largely stay home on Election Day — and well they might — Donald Trump will have a clear path to finishing the job of breaking up the nation in his next term.
(Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.)
© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.