The question of what really constitutes a news event | Opinion

In the online newspaper industry, the term “breaking news” is reserved only for articles that reach a certain level of importance.

For example, when two fugitives wanted in connection with the shooting death of a 13-year-old girl in Bluefield were captured earlier this year by U.S. Marshals at a hotel in Delaware, it was quickly flagged as an incident. news on the newspaper’s website. , Breaking news was also linked to our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, email and SMS alerts were also sent.

Other examples of a current event include a plane crash; a fatal gunshot or stab wound; a natural disaster such as an earthquake, tornado or major flood; a jury verdict in a high-profile criminal case; a terrorist attack like the horrific events of September 11, 2001; or – in the sad case of 2020 – state-ordered business closures and stay-at-home orders.

In short, it has to be something important to earn a news banner.

Unfortunately, this is a simple rule that CNN and Fox News virtually ignore.

If you tune into CNN or Fox News just about any day, you’ll probably notice a news banner at the bottom of the TV screen for just about any story the two networks are talking about or cover.

It’s not supposed to work that way.

Whenever President Joe Biden speaks, it shouldn’t be breaking news. Whenever a White House press briefing takes place, or a Department of Defense press briefing on the war in Ukraine takes place, there shouldn’t be any breaking news. That is – unless a major development or announcement is made that merits a breaking news proclamation.

As someone who does a lot of behind-the-scenes digital stuff here in the newsroom, I can say that there are occasions when I wonder whether or not to designate a local story as a news event. .

Sometimes I seek the opinion of other people in the newsroom to get their opinion on whether a story in question should be labeled as a news event or not on our website and media pages. social. The same goes for whether a local story is important enough to warrant a text alert or an email alert.

Sometimes the answer is not always easy.

There can be the occasional internal debate between us in the newsroom about whether or not a certain story warrants a last-minute text alert. And it’s worth noting that once you’ve sent a text alert, you can’t unduly send it.

You can send a second corrected text alert, but that’s about it. In comparison, a news banner placed on a Facebook story can be removed or edited as needed. When it comes to Twitter, we don’t normally place a news banner on a Twitter alert, especially since you are initially limited on the number of words you can use in a tweet. Maybe Elon Musk will correct this in the future.

About twenty years ago, all that talk of tweets and text alerts would have sounded like a foreign language to me. However, it has become part of our daily routine, at least on the digital side of work.

Now, as I take a momentary break from writing this column, I glance at the newsroom flatscreen sitting on the cupboard just to the left of reporter Greg Jordan’s desk. That day, our channel is on CNN. For those who might wonder why we watch CNN, I offer the following explanation. Every day we alternate between watching CNN and Fox News. Although sometimes George in sports changes the channel to ESPN at night.

This afternoon, CNN displays a breaking news banner, followed by this headline: “The Russians had no idea what was going on in Ukraine”.

OKAY. The war in Europe is important. No questions about this. But this particular headline is not a breaking news banner.

For some reason, CNN thinks every headline is a news event. Fox News is almost as bad.

Charles Owens is the editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him @BDTowens