Breaking News – Developing

Paul Farhi reflects on a growing trend in cable news in which anything and everything is hyped with a banner proclaiming instant freshness:

President Bush’s latest news conference? CNN labels it a “Developing Story.” A car bombing in Baghdad? The banner on MSNBC reads, “Breaking News.” A blown transformer in New York City? Fox News Channel is on it, with a graphic that announces, “Very Latest.”

Sometimes a story is a “News Alert.” Sometimes it’s a “Bulletin.” And sometimes the banner reads, “New Developments” (although if there are new developments in a “Developing Story,” shouldn’t it really say “Developing Developing Story”?).

It makes sense on a certain level, as it’s difficult to catch people’s attention in a world where everyone is flooded with information. Still, it’s annoying.

The folks at the television news networks are pikers, though, compared to their radio brethren. The DC area’s most popular station, WTOP, offers nothing but news, traffic, and weather. It’s fine for catching traffic reports (every ten minutes on the 8’s) but rather aggravating for an extended period. Stories that are hours old are still treated as breaking news and delivered with teasers. More than twenty minutes of that is mind numbing, especially once you’ve heard the punchline.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    The local newscasts are the worst. Channel 5 in DC has every frickin’ item as “Breaking News” including traffic jams on the beltway.

  2. It all makes sense if you remember that despite the self-serving high-minded proclamations from the Fourth Estate about their key role protecting our rights it is all really about selling soap.

  3. I remember when networks interrupted regular programming with flashing lights and serious music. Cable news started doing that too but too often.

  4. rodney dill says:

    I think an SSDD category should be employed

    (Same Sh*t, Different Day)

  5. Wayne says:

    I find myself falling into the cry wolf syndrome. Most of the time I hear “breaking news” or “news alert” I continue on as if they said nothing.

  6. M. Murcek says:

    I no longer consider the TV to be a place to get news unless it’s live feed video of the shuttle going up or coming down. All the rest is suspect at a minimum. Once, some ‘casts were better than others, but they’re all crap now…