On September 11, 2001, when the media began reporting the news about the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center, I didn’t take it all that seriously. Really, I didn’t. Despite all the urgency projected by the TV networks, I just assumed it was some twin-engine plane that had flown off course (I had been listening from another room, and not actually sitting in front of the TV and watching). I wasn’t until I actually saw the replay of a passenger airliner disappearing into the North Tower that I came to the realization that our country had a grave situation on its hands. Why was I so slow to take the initial events of 9/11 seriously? Because our media had built a reputation (which continues to this day) for crying wolf.
Everything is “breaking news,” regardless of its gravity, or lack thereof. For example, it’s difficult to turn on CNN and not find the words “breaking news” pasted somewhere on the screen. For them, it an on-going state of affairs. Someone’s cat being stuck up a tree now qualifies as breaking news. When they are covering a major story, they consider it breaking news when they are told that nothing has changed. I’m not making that up. They report minor things with such breathlessness and urgency that they have blurred the lines between the reporting of trivial matters and the reporting of happenings that are highly consequential. Shame on them for allowing the quest for ratings to trump the reasonable prioritizing of news stories. Their standing with the public has suffered as a result.