Last night, about 10 minutes into my favorite show in the whole wide world—Extreme Makeover: Home Edition—the commercial break was interrupted by a breaking local news story:
A small, single-engine aircraft has crashed on the roof of a San Antonio retirement home. The incliment weather could be to blame, but we’re not sure. No one from the home has been injured, but it is believed that the pilot has been killed in the impact. We’ll keep you up to date.
Fine. This event is actually quite worthy of a news break, and the information was dispensed with reasonable brevity.
About fifteen minutes later, the local news cut in once again. The same information was once again dispensed but, this time, the news anchor sat down with another news anchor who had taken flying lessons at some point in his life to discuss possible reasons for the crash. Sigh. This guy was not a pilot, mind you, and really had no qualifications to be making any assertions about anything crash-related. They cut over to the weatherman a couple of times as he literally took guesses as to why the aircraft went down. All he could do was point out that we were having rainy weather. Perceptive. I was trying to be patient, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. Time was ticking away, and though I truly believe that this news story was worthy of a brief update, there was no update, only repetition. It was as if these news anchors were simply repeating themselves ad nauseum just to hear the sound of their own important voices. Twenty minutes later, regular programming resumed and I had learned absolutely nothing new about the crash.
Wednesday night, I missed the last five minutes of CSI:NY because of a news break announcing the death of Yasser Arafat.
The news came on right after the news break, and guess what the top story was? You, guessed it: repeat-o-rama. Was it really necessary to break into regular programming to air a story that was already going to be aired five minutes later on the national news?
Let me be clear: I understand the importance of breaking news. I was disappointed to miss major portions of my television entertainment, but I could have forgiven the intrusion had there been anything informative or urgent about the news I received. Instead, I sat and listened to my local news team repeat the same information over and over and over again, with no end in sight. I didn’t see the CSI team solve the case, I got to see a news break. And then I got to see the exact same story on the news right after the news break.
I have seen this behavior many a time. My local news teams seem to be the least experienced in this sort of adlib newscasting, but seasoned outlets such as CBS have caused me great frustration as well. The protocol for these breaks seems to be, well, breaking down. Why do these news anchors feel the need to rehash the facts and events over and over again? Don’t they realized that once you start repeating yourself you actually may have nothing more to say? I have seen way too much stammering and adlibbing during breaking news stories lately.
Breaking news? You bet. And it’s high time we fixed it.