A Supreme Court decision, a plane crash in the Alps, Saudi Arabia military action in Yemen, and deadly tornadoes in my state.
All of those items seem like pretty big news to me, and I received breaking news alerts today about all of them, some from more than one news source.
But check out this screenshot I took earlier today.
One of these things is not like the others, USA Today.
Seriously? Zayn Malik leaving One Direction is breaking news alert worthy?
This has been getting on my nerves for a while, but today was just the breaking point—pun intended.
It seems that news agencies need to define what constitutes breaking news, instead of just alerting readers every time anything happens in an attempt to garner hits on their sites.
I subscribe to notifications from my local newspaper’s website, USA Today and the Associated Press. The two national media outlets sent breaking news alerts when the winner of The Westminster Kennel Club’s dog show was announced.
Seriously? You’re sending me an alert about a dog show winner? That is not information I need to know immediately .
So, what do we need to know immediately? Breaking news is an unexpected news event happening now. Typically, breaking news is thought of as something the reader needs to know as it’s occurring. Notice I wrote “needs to know,” not “wants to know?” I’m sure there are a ton of people who care about One Direction, but that’s not information they need to know immediately.
Need to know information, in my mind, is that which deals with a health, safety or welfare issue. The tornadoes I referenced at the beginning of this post certainly constituted need to know information for the people in my state. It made sense to send alerts about them.
By sending an alert about seemingly every news happening they think interests readers, news agencies essentially are crying wolf. I fear that they’re playing up so many non-important things that we’ll just start ignoring the notifications and won’t receive important news when we really need it.
These frequent, irrelevant alerts aren’t a service to the reader. They’re an annoyance.
Sure, we could just unsubscribe to the notifications. I have considered it. But, for the time being, I get more benefit than annoyance from them.
But, for the sake of serving readers, I encourage all news agencies to consider what constitutes breaking news. Have the discussion. When do you send alerts and when do you wait for readers to see your posts elsewhere? Talk it out. Write a policy. Educate the staff about it.
There’s no doubt that sending an alert gets more eyes on your stories immediately. But this may eventually backfire if things don’t change. Then you’ll just be losing readers on another medium.
Let’s Talk Nerdy!
What do you think about breaking news alerts? Do you think news agencies need to reconsider what they alert readers of or do you think news alerts are fine as they are?