I remember the good old days. The family would be sitting around the TV, watching the hilarious antics of a group of inept misfits trying to run a department store, or a bus company, or any other number of business concerns with hilarious consequences when the screen would go black. Before anyone had a chance to say, ‘What on earth is going on? Or stride across and hit the TV smartly on the top (which is how you fixed TVs in the olden days) an announcer’s voice would say, ‘we interrupt this programme for a News Flash.’
At this every member of the family would gasp and look at eachother. A News Flash was a thing of wonder, seen about as often as Halley’s Comet. Something big was going on. The screen would cut to a grim-faced announcer who would deliver the bulletin and advise when the next update would be broadcast. This would be big stuff: the death of a member of the Royal family, the SAS storming an embassy that had been under seige.
It must be hard for the internet generation to understand what a black hole we lived in then. News was once a day on TV in the afternoons and once in the evenings, but this was quite enough, thank you and to those that remember April 18, 1930 positively excessive. This was the day that BBC radio announed, ‘Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.’ Then played piano music in lieu of a broadcast. Those were the days.
Since someone, somewhere decided that the only news was rolling news and everyone followed suit, news organisations have increasing tried to get the jump on one another to catch the flow of traffic and this has lead to the rise and rise of the breaking hashtag.
#Breaking! It cries – and we all think, ‘Oooh! Something has happened!’ – except over time the only thing breaking has been an outbreak of #Breaking! hastags on the internet.
It started out inocently enough #Breaking! Someone has been found guilty/innocent of a [insert name of high profile court case here]. Fair enough, law and order do get covered a bit and when a jury deliberates, you are never quite sure when they are going to come out with the verdict. #Breaking! A [insert name of natural or human made disaster] has happened in [insert name of country.] Yup, I will accept that. That is not up there with a news flash, but it is big and unexpected with more news to come, so fair enough. #Breaking! [Insert name of celebrity award] Nominations are announced..Hmmm that is not really breaking is it? A scheduled press conference has taken place, we knew they were coming and the news has gone up on the relevant website – hardly unexpected, is it? Or something that can not wait until the next news bulletin. #Breaking! A charity has announced it will wind down its affairs – Ok, troubling but do we need to all stop what we are doing and read about it – can it not wait until six o’clock? And it is not unfolding news, is it? They have issued a press release and you have all the facts that you are going to get right now, so it is not -ing, but -oken.
#Breaking! Bin stolen in Adelaide, #Breaking! Mr Sampson’s car breaks down in street, #Breaking Cat does something funny on the internet – LOL.
In the glory days of print press a man in a trilby would slam his fist onto the desk, pick up the phone and holler, “Stop press! Hold the front page!’ That my friends, is how we shoud measure breaking news: would you stop production and hold the front page for it? Will #Breaking! Be tonight’s lead story? Sadly, I fear not anymore.
#Breaking! Sammy has had his lunch money stolen by bullies. Look, I am very sorry for Sammy, but he is just devaluing the currency here. The more you cry #Breaking! for stories about people crossing the road, or going about their everyday business, the less I am likely to pay attention. It is like Cadbury’s creme eggs. When I was a kid, you could only get Creme Eggs – the most luscious and luxurious of easter eggs, with their hyper-rich sweet gooey centres at Easter. It was so unfair – WHY only Easter? If only they were available all year round with all the other sweets. Well then that changed and you could buy them all year, and you know what? I stopped buying them altogether.
So please, guys, treat your #Breaking!s with more respect, or suffer the consequences of the boy who cried wolf. Oh, and while you are at it, you can take #Breaking!’s bastard half-sister #ICYMI with you. How can I POSSIBLY have missed it? It is EVERYWHERE.