We Don’t Break The News; It’s Already Broken

We Don’t Break The News; It’s Already Broken

Breaking News - CNN - photo by Erik MörnerThat is the sub tagline for this blog. It’s meant to be a bit funny, but it also is intended to make a statement: “Breaking News” is broken. And Salon writer Farhad Manjoo agrees:

Breaking News Is Broken — Don’t watch cable news. Shut off Twitter. You’d be better off cleaning your gutters.

Breaking news is broken. That’s the clearest lesson you can draw about the media from the last week, when both old- and new-media outlets fell down on the job. By now you’ve likely heard the lowlights. CNN and the AP incorrectly reported on Wednesday that a Boston Marathon suspect had been arrested. People on Reddit and editors at the New York Post wrongly fingered innocent kids as bombing suspects. Redditors also pushed the theory that a Brown University student who has been missing for more than a month was one of the bombers—a story that gained steam on Twitter Thursday when people listening to police scanners heard the cops repeat the student’s name.

As the founder and chief writer of this liberal political blog, I don’t have the resources of the big news organizations, but sometimes that is a good thing.

This blog is not about breaking news. This blog is not about an equal balance of left vs. right. Make no mistake, this blog is liberal. This blog is progressive. This blog is about equal rights and social justice. You should expect nothing less than hard-hitting liberal analysis. This might be a liberal opinion blog, but it’s the facts that matter most.

I’m not interested in adding “BREAKING NEWS” to my blog post titles because I think the phrase is rendered meaningless by nonsense like this week’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. There are plenty of other liberal sites in the blogosphere that cater to this lowest common denominator style of reporting. I’m interested in getting to the heart of the matter and revealing the motives behind social injustice.

History does not judge us based on “breaking” headlines. History judges us based on our long and sustained actions on social justice. And that is what makes this site tick.

photo by Erik Mörner

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  • I watched the coverage on the Boston Bombing Lockdown all day yesterday. CNN was, at times, extraordinarily inept. One of the worst moments came when they cut to a woman, apparently an aunt to the suspect. She quite rightly pointed out that the evidence against her nephew was,(at least from what was being reported) pretty flimsy. Her attitude was confrontational. Obviously she was under a great deal of stress.
    What was remarkable was how the suspicion of guilt had become unquestioned guilt by the news media. The words “the suspect” and “the bomber” were being used interchangeably. As the aunt seemed to be saying:.there were some glaring paradoxes she seemed to be saying: Where was the evidence?
    But then, suddenly in the middle of the interview, CNN decides to cut back to the smirking Anderson Cooper who tells the audience, “She’s obviously in denial.”

    That’s not to say that the suspect didn’t do it. But there is such a thing as due process (or there used to be) and verdicts- no matter what the evidence or what the police say- are NOT decided by the news media. We can assume that there is a lot that the authorities are not revealing at this point but the way these events were handled raised plenty of questions about how fair any trial can possibly be at this point. BUT one thing we can say, if nothing else, it made great television.

    • That is a big problem with the media. Suspects are tried and convicted on air. Yes, there are some suspects where guilt seems to be undeniable, but the media should be careful in portraying this to viewers.

      All media is guilty of this, but I think MSNBC was the least egregious in this area, at least this week. At the very least, they were less likely to report information from an unverified source as fact. Although that did depend on the host at the time. For example, Chuck Todd was very careful about this. But MSNBC does not get a pass. They can do better as well.

      And with this article, I’m not trying to say I’m immune to media coverage, as I watched plenty of it this week! 🙂 What I’m saying is that I simply have no desire to have this blog participate in it for sake of presenting a breaking news headline. When I have some commentary, I’ll write it.

      • This week I also skipped the Boston bombing. I was just thankful that the bombers weren’t related to Aaron Swartz. (the “hacker” who killed himself) When I heard MIT, I thought “oh no.” So I am glad I didn’t write anything.

        As far as trial by media, even president Obama got into the act with his press conference. I think he might have made a mistake actually. How can the surviving brother actually get a fair trial (or a facsimile of one) when the president goes before the nation and judges you as guilty?

        I wrote a kind of headline-y post after the West, Texas explosion. Rick Perry’s policy of de-regulation and budget cuts to agencies that oversee public safety needed to be highlighted to understand how this wasn’t really an “act of God” as it would be inevitably portrayed in the media. It goes straight from horrific scenes, to people taking care of victims, to the governor holding a press conference (that was outrageously segued into Perry.asking for federal government dollars!) Everybody wanted to skip the crucial part- why did this happen? could it have been prevented?
        Normally, I also tend to take a pass on the breaking story type of post, although, sadly, it does bring in a lot of readers if you follow the trends like that.

        • Yep, that is always the contention. Who doesn’t want more readers? I know I do! And I know if I consistently wrote about the hottest news items as they hit the wire, I’m guaranteed to get more readers. Although, how engaged would those readers be?

          And to be honest, it’s not like I’ve never written an article from news that was hot off the press. But I still refuse to use the term “breaking news” in my article titles.

          And I heard about the Marathon bombing within 30 minutes of when it happened, and I could have written something about it, but I didn’t have anything to say at the time. I did later write a couple of articles, the first one was more of a critique of modern society, and that we aren’t degenerating into a moral abyss. Random violent acts happen. Sometimes they cause mass casualties because of the capabilities of modern instruments of violence, but singular events do not define a society.

          The second one was more a recap of what was known at that moment, since watching hours of “breaking news” coverage on a cable news network tends not to make one much smarter or informed. And that was the point Farhad Manjoo made in his piece on Salon.

          • You are just more careful than the major news outlets. That’s a good approach.
            To smaller blogging or smaller sites, reputation is all important. For CNN (not to mention Fox News) they don’t have to rely on being right because they have coverage. People will watch them no matter how sloppy they are.. and they are pushing the limits nowadays.

            As you might already know, I prefer to do background research or to write posts that reflect on the past, comparing to today. I also think it is important for sites like our to challenge the established narratives without falling into the trap of the so-called “conspiracy theory.” Conspiracies exist, of course, but because they challenge the orthodoxy, they have to firmly grounded in facts. or else, you might as well say the Illumanti Lizard aliens did it and be done with it.

          • More careful yes, but I also would feel dishonest to imply I’m breaking the news. Of course, many “legitimate” news outlets report “breaking news” that did not originate from their own internal reporters or sources.

            Yes, your writing is quite detailed, with plenty of evidence from the past to support your argument. And I agree, we need to challenge narratives and what people perceive to be common wisdom.