Breaking news, sometimes interchangeably referred to as late-breaking news or simply news flash and interchangeably designated as a special feature or special report, is an ongoing issue which many broadcasters feel warrants the temporary interruption of live news or programme on air in order to report on its facts. The sudden and often graphic reports which are characteristic of breaking news are usually prompted by a fatal car collision, a terrorist attack, a flood, a natural disaster or even a botched surgery. They are most often reported by local television stations or television news channels in collaboration with other media entities, in particular online media sources. In some instances, they are also picked up by national print media such as the Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers around the world. It is not uncommon for major newspapers to publish breaking news stories – sometimes before they get their own versions – in the form of an article.
One reason that these newscasts are typically breaking news stories is that the medium which the story is being broadcasted through will compensate for this by displaying breaking news graphics and images during the same broadcast. In most cases, however, the medium will not substitute for a live reporter, although he or she may provide a live link-up feed to local stations and provide text commentary. Most television news broadcasts will indicate on screen where live reporting is occurring, and they can also play a clip of a live person during breaking news. Other outlets may play voiceover narration over moving images to reinforce the information being reported. While this type of on-air live reporting does not replace a reporter, it is often seen as an effective way for viewers to get an overview of what is happening with local attention in real time.
Breaking news stories have been an integral part of television coverage since the invention of the first network television newsroom in tuner form in 1941. In recent times, however, they have become more of a distraction to listeners than a source of informative and interesting information. Viewers have grown accustomed to regular programming where there is little or no interaction between the presenter and the guest. They tune in to hear the latest information about the latest political scandal or major sporting event. The appearance of breaking news stories on the schedule right when the final commercial break is scheduled may be a cause of annoyance for viewers who have become accustomed to uninterrupted programming. Scheduled programming, along with time limits that accompany it, has led many to consider news broadcasts as nothing more than advertisements.
While some news outlets will note that their coverage of breaking events will be accompanied by Weather segments, there is no substitute for a live reporter providing live breaking news tips and details during a news broadcast. When a live news anchor mentions that a breaking news segment will begin on a certain channel or at a certain time, it tends to jolt viewers who are used to regular programming. Viewers become fixated on the precise date, time, and network where the breaking news segment will be airing, and they may lose track of the program in the process. When this happens, the intended impact on viewership is lost.
Many news outlets have tried to remedy the situation by scheduling breaking reports that occur during specific times either before or after their regular programming. While these reports are still scheduled during specific hours, they provide a similar level of coverage as scheduled programming, but without the aforementioned interruptions caused by breaking news stories. For example, during the Super Bowl last February, CNN featured a story about the February floods that hit the South and the Northeastern states. Then just a few seconds later, a weather report was broadcasted regarding the severe weather that moved through the same area two days later.
In the case of a breaking report, if the reader or viewer is not in the loop, it’s likely they won’t pay any attention to it. However, viewers who are up on the latest happenings tend to find this type of breaking news interesting enough to warrant checking back in. If a person is reading a blog, they are more apt to look up the URL of the blog they are visiting in hopes of finding out what the latest information is regarding a particular subject. For this reason, many individuals look up breaking news on their personal browsers just to see what’s happening locally, state-wide, or nationwide. This is the exact reason why websites such as AOL News, Yahoo News, The New York Times, and many others have included a breaking news widget within their websites, allowing users to keep track of the local news as it happens.