“This is a Special Report from ABC News.” There was a time when those words could stop the world.
I spent hours today listening to every detail from Wolf Blitzer and the CNN crew. I waited with fear and anticipation, only to learn that some little snot (probably not unlike the two who live with me) was hiding out in his very own attic, in a box. I watched every second of the live coverage (online before it hit the airwaves) to learn the fate of little 6-year old Falcon, who we thought was trapped, but was in fact..not there at all. Had he fallen from the balloon? No. There was speculation he was in a box…that was attached to the balloon…that had fallen,with him in it, to his death…wait…safe in the attic…trying to avoid a beating. What?
I was paralyzed during the coverage, eyes focused on the television. I soon discover, this kid’s nutty dad thinks that little green aliens are all around us, AND has been on Wife Swap. Twice. He takes the kids out of school to chase tornadoes and hurricanes. Add some water, eggs, butter and presto: instant NUTCAKE! But, I still watch, because it is BREAKING NEWS.
I was thinking tonight about my obsession with Breaking News. I am in my late 30’s, so my first memories take me back to the late 70’s and early 80’s. I remember the Iran Hostage Crisis on television. I have some memory of the release of the hostages. I remember watching the coverage of the assassination attempt of President Reagan with my mom after school. I remember the names of the others that were hit, and can remember what our living room looked like that day. (As an aside, I stayed at that hotel in Washington D.C. last year, and found out that locals call it the “Hinckley Hilton.”) I vividly remember the day when an airplane crashed into the Potomac River, and the brave rescuers swimming into the icy water. I watched the Challenger and Columbia disasters, and try to not miss a shuttle launch or landing to this day. Of course, 9/11 and the days following, we were all glued to our TV’s for every detail of “why” that we could understand.
The crash of Delta Flight 191 here in Dallas on August 2, 1985 is something I will never forget. I was glued to the television for hours and hours of local and national coverage. Major events in my life are tied to memories of these news stories. Peter Jennings and Ted Koppel are the voices I remember trusting to bring me the scoop. I remember Walter Cronkite on the news, but not in much detail. Brokaw, Rather, and Jennings were iconic, in an age of television where network TV was still the source. The world of media sure has changed.
I’ve talked about dramatic news stories so far, but that alone does not make me a breaking news junkie. Just about the greatest thing that can happen to me on a random week day is a live police chase. I watched a local police chase for a couple of hours a few days ago. The guy never really went above the speed limit, and didn’t even run a stop sign until the 2-hour mark. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see the Texas Highway Patrol (known for shooting tires and engines to end chases) pull up behind the trailing pack. I was definitely team HP.
I will not move from the coverage of inbound hurricanes. I have the USGS earthquake Web site in my bookmarks, and regularly check the latest quakes, even though I live in Texas. Honestly, I would watch paint dry if CNN gave it a sounder and a crawl.
Today, we add our new “on-demand” technology to the breaking news mix. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking outlets allow us to get involved in reporting the story. I was on top of the death of Michael Jackson a full 45 minutes before the news outlets, courtesy of the Twitterati. I’ve seen so much breaking news, I’ve considered a career change.
Speaking of, here’s my plan for a channel once Comcast and NBC decide to wise up and make me a program director: The “Broken News” channel. The BN Network would only show archived events as they happened in real-time. The channel could have historically significant programming that would benefit younger generations, and also appeal to older ones. We’d also broadcast goofy breaking-but-shouldn’t-have-been-breaking news, and make fun of local news anchors. I think I am onto something here, don’t you? Copyright pending, so don’t try anything funny…