Let’s do the Time Warp again

At 3:49 p.m. Tuesday, Fox 8 reported on its website that Rep. Howard Coble had been admitted to the hospital. Shortly thereafter, the station sent that link out to its 98,000 Facebook fans.

An hour and 15 minutes later — at 5:04 p.m. — the anchor of the Fox 8 5 o’clock news preceded the Coble-to-the-hospital story by announcing “This just in to the newsroom.”

Obviously, it wasn’t “just in.” It was simply the first time the newsroom had the chance to tell the viewing audience about it. “This just in” joins “breaking news” in the media loose-language category. Morning television often describes as “breaking news” something that occurred some time overnight, often hours after the news was actually breaking.

The Internet has changed the news world in many ways, not the least of which is when people get news. For me, I learned of the Coble story around 4 p.m. when I read Mark BInker’s blog post, which was filed at 3:44 p.m. Hundreds — maybe thousands — read it on the Fox 8 Facebook page during that hour-and-15-minute period before it flowed into the Fox 8 newsroom.

What’s wrong with stretching the time continuum this way? Isn’t it just a way to make the news seem more dramatic and urgent?

By definition, breaking news doesn’t need added drama. But this is more than a problem of imprecise use of language. People are smart and we shouldn’t make them roll their eyes at our attempts to inflate and package the news. At a time when the news media’s credibility hovers down there with Congress, we can squander our opportunities.

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