Breaking news, more commonly known as late-breaking news or just news flash and interchangeably called special reports or special story and daily news, is a non-stop story that media outlets feel warrants the immediate interruption of regular programming or ongoing news to bring out its facts. In many ways, breaking news serves as a modern-day equivalent of a safety bulletin. It alerts citizens and society at large to dangers lurking unseen and out of sight, and brings to light the workings of government, military and law enforcement and their operations.
For example, if there is an unfolding story of child abuse in a small town, network news will choose to dedicate some of its evening programming to the story. It may show images of the alleged perpetrator physically abusing the child. It could feature interviews with the victims, family members and townspeople. All of this would be carried out within the confines of local reporting, but would bring awareness to parents, community members and other local residents of potential danger lurking in their midst.
But the importance of breaking news does not stop there. Large metropolitan areas have entire professional teams dedicated to covering such stories. From Fox News to CNN, they broadcast live and often update their audiences with breaking news as soon as it happens. Even smaller local channels need to provide this same level of service, if they wish to stay competitive in their markets. Smaller cities with a relatively small local television audience are often forced to find creative ways to provide breaking news to their viewers, and often find that they have to outsource their newsgathering efforts to local reporters and correspondents from other media sources. This has a negative impact on local businesses and their ability to compete in their communities.
But perhaps even more than the damage that is caused by competition, small towns and cities must also worry about the lack of coverage in their local media markets. When local residents don’t feel like their local news outlets are providing them with reliable, relevant reporting, they tend to look elsewhere for the same information. The Internet has provided many people with the means to get the news they want when it matters, and this can lead to frustration when the original source of the news report is unable to provide coverage of an event. For instance, when a major national news story breaks, millions of people around the country look to the Internet to find out what is happening within their own communities. A simple search for “breaking news in your area” on a popular search engine will yield tens of thousands of hits, which is surprising to some people because the amount of coverage that a simple search term like “breaking news in your area” receives is amazing.
But without the investment in resources that breaking news coverage requires, television stations and local media organizations may find themselves struggling even harder to provide their viewers with the kind of detailed information that they so desperately need. Many small news agencies are limited in their budget and are forced to turn to grants and donations in order to keep their doors open. Even well-funded news stations that generate revenue from advertising sales are often at risk of shutting down because of the lack of revenue generated by these types of programs. This, of course, can have a detrimental effect on the community, as small, independent news sources are forced to pick up the slack left behind by the major media outlets.
This trend of relying too heavily on the Internet and other multimedia sources has led news agencies to start providing more in-depth weather coverage through websites, podcasts, and other mediums. In the past, the emphasis has been primarily on local coverage, but this is no longer the case. Small news agencies that have traditionally relied heavily on regular programming have had to change format and focus in order to stay afloat in a changing market. While television stations still play an important role in our society by providing critical reporting and breaking news, the recent trend of turning to the Internet for more content makes it clear that the public needs to take a more active role in monitoring the activities going on around them.