The Breaking News Epidemic

Julius Olavarria | December 24, 2023

Miracles are happening every day, all around us, constantly. It seems like there’s breaking news every 30 minutes. It seems like we miss out on major discoveries or a horrible catastrophe every time we check the news.

Social media has become overwhelming: and it’s only getting worse. Every news company competes for your attention, so they claim breaking news at every chance they get. Each makes an argument that their stories will severely impact us, which has lots of negative effects on the viewing population. This is an unhealthy way to conduct our news, and there’s an easy way to change it. 

Good and bad news is all the same. Every news company needs viewership: it’s the time of the internet- views are everything. They need publicity and subscriptions, and the only way to do that is to promote their content like it’s the end of the world. Viewers need to connect with the material, so companies need to focus on highlighting the why: why does this specific piece of information apply to my life and why should I care

In this way, good news and bad news, like finding the cure to cancer or civil unrest in a 3rd world country, have the same heart: views. Without viewership, news articles and news companies would wither up and die, leading to the “breaking news” epidemic that we see now.

It’s obvious: breaking news attracts viewers. For people who still watch customary TV channels, there’s a breaking news story every single minute. It attracts the eyes: the huge red banners practically scream at you, stealing your attention. 

Individuals who get their news on social media, however, have it worse. On TikTok, news creators claim life-or-death situations with every post. The dependency for viewership on TikTok,

in some cases, is worse than major broadcasting networks on TV. These creators are struggling for viewers and don’t have a defined viewing population: they need virality on every single post, which means more breaking news and more wild claims that scare people half the time.

TikTok news creator @marcus.dipaola, in a video posted recently (December 26th, 2023), claimed that “zombie deer disease also known as chronic wasting disease has been spreading in deer in Yellowstone and some scientists are worried it could spread to humans.”

He issues a huge piece of information, one that tells people a zombie outbreak could potentially happen if humans were to get infected by the “zombie deer disease.” He needs the viewership he needs to go viral, and is scaring people in the process. I’m sure this isn’t just a made-up piece of information, but there’s no doubt it’s inflamed for the viewership and attention. In fact, he basically just states that “some scientists are worried” which can mean several different things. In reality, there are probably a couple of scientists out there willing to say they are “worried” about this potential zombie apocalypse just to get publicity and attention. 

The argument that I make today is that most modern breaking news articles do not apply to your everyday life. Miracles do not happen every day. Catastrophes do not happen every day. A potential zombie outbreak will not happen. There are sensible people, scientists, and reporters out there who will speak truth to power, dismantling the attention-seeking exaggerators. The only problem is that they’re so hard to find. 

What arises is a disconnect between the media and news sources. Breaking news has lost its meaning. News organizations- whether that be the New York Times or some random creator on TikTok- are popping up more than ever. There is so much news and so little coverage, and it's because of the online system we have created. There's too much exaggeration.

As a result, news sources that are dependent on views and entertaining visitors forget the meaning of genuine relevance. Despite giving “breaking news” titles to stories that attract viewers and gain publicity, readers leave articles dissatisfied. They likely forget about what they read days later. Sure, a major astrophysics revelation that maps our galaxy is important, but it doesn’t apply to our lives in any way. Of course, it may be breaking news to some people, but to most, it isn’t. It all boils down to the fact that these articles don’t mean anything to 99% of viewers but are still claimed as breaking news.

Why does this matter? 

It matters because actual, important, and impactful news stories to everyone in the nation- or potentially across the globe- will not have publicity. Although a separate matter, news organizations that monopolize the industry censor articles from other, smaller companies despite their relevance. Finally, when we want to make a change in our country, state, or city, the “breaking news” stories that report on global catastrophes with no connection to our actual reality will prohibit upstanders, reformers, and changers from doing so. Major news organizations will exaggerate and steal viewers away from smaller publishers who have the truth to speak. 

Today, it is obvious that change is in the wind. Societal reform is going to become more important than ever. As of now, however, there’s no way to spark uniform change in our online population. 

Back then, due to limits in technology, there were only 5 news companies for the entire public to choose from. This had its benefits, and we can see it now more than ever: the public was more connected, major news was major news to all, and genuine relevance was upheld. What was featured in news articles was relevant for most citizens, and “kept everyone on the same page.”  

Today, unfortunately, we see this in very rare cases, and only happens when all news organizations report on the same topic. This is very, very rare, and still, some demographics are not included in this estimate.

To connect with the public, smooth political divides, and establish unity across generations of Americans, our news system has to be reformed in its entirety. We need to redefine our media, and it can start with major news organizations’ reduction of “breaking news." 

A new age is upon us- what that could mean for the future is unknown, but what we can say for sure is that news has lost its meaning. Reducing the need for organizations to claim breaking news will establish unity and relevance across all demographics, something we will desperately need for the upcoming years.