Don’t Be Fooled By “Breaking News”

As we rush from one headline to the next, we're missing important stories

The world seems to be moving faster than it ever has before. Major events go by like flashcards. They appear and then disappear so quickly it’s impossible to get your head around them. The U.S. is involved in another military action, and the Egyptian government crumbled as a result of widespread protests in the Middle East. There was an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear meltdown. And, oh yeah, the economy is on the brink of collapse; important government programs are being cut; and state budgets and unions are under siege. And that’s just the last three weeks.

[SIGNUP]If you think you have a difficult time keeping up with events, just imagine the networks. Focus and resources have to change on a dime. And when the media giants turn their heads to look the other way, what was once a major event is out of our collective sight and out of our collective mind.

There are still major union protests in state capitals across the country, but we have moved on. Egypt is under military rule and the future of democracy there is shaky at best, but the world stopped caring three stories ago. The salt water they used to cool a reactor in Japan may cause another radiation leak as the country still needs help with the tsunami cleanup, but sorry we are watching air strikes now.

It seems our major stories attention span is about a week maximum. What is lost in this whiplash news cycle is any kind of in-depth reporting or perspective. The video of protestors and Anderson Cooper getting hit takes precedent over the reasons for the protests. Video of air strikes and Gaddafi crazy talk is what we get from Libya, with no real reporting on who these rebels are and who is funding them. The future of nuclear power in the world was debated for a weekend. Oh yeah, and some think these all may be signs of the coming apocalypse, but that’s just the lighthearted kicker at the bottom of the hour. After commercials, we’ll go back to more cool video of cruise missiles being fired.

Everything is “live” and “happening now” and “breaking news.” They are the catch phrases that dominate the major news channels. I want to suggest a new channel that slows down the information superhighway so that we can grasp some of these stories before they zoom by. A channel filled with catch phrases like “a story you may have missed” or “now a follow up on a story that made headlines last week.”

We can call it the NNC network for News Not (Being) Covered. Or how about NWA network: News (From A) Week Ago?

It just seems that all of that “Breaking News” has finally broken the news. In Afghanistan last week we hit a morbid milestone of 1,500 Americans killed in action. Oh, and last week we also found out we aren’t leaving until 2014. Maybe. That story about our forgotten war, the longest in U.S. history, was buried in pictures of chaos from somewhere else. Afghanistan would be the lead story on my NNC.

The disservice of the networks in showing the world in staccato images is that we are constantly distracted by the next event, without understanding or fixing the last event. This is a topic that deserves more attention. And I promise to delve into it another time, but the anchor on CNN just said, “You won’t believe what Charlie Sheen is doing now.” So I have to go.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Thursday. See his previous columns here. To watch his video commentaries, go to