Broken into pieces…

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‘This news is not so important that it can be called BREAKING!’

During 23 years with the BBC, and a 40 year journalistic career (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon), our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry always believed that the label ‘BREAKING NEWS’ should only be used rarely, above revelations of hugely important information, but today comes still MORE evidence that the opposite is the case, and it is being put on stories willy-nilly now!

Earlier Phil described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency servicesas well as court cases are central to any media operation.

He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his careerreally took off

Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge ofhistory and teaching the subject is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.

“COME OUT AND TELL ME WHY THIS IS ‘BREAKING NEWS’!”

He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting. 

 

I seem to live in a parallel universe.

They can’t do a ‘soft’ lunar landing, renewed violence in Ecuador, politicians have made completely empty comments on television, or girls are at risk of grooming gangs in Rochdale – and these stories are all  ‘BREAKING NEWS’.

I was always taught, though, that as a journalist the label should be used only sparingly and even then in just giving significant information.

Journalists used to have a different view of what was ‘breaking news’

The reason is that otherwise the stories will lose their value, and people might not bother to look at them, thinking: “Oh they say this all the time, but it doesn’t mean anything…”.

Journalism is therefore seen as worthless by everybody.

Yet now you seem to see ANYTHING given as ‘BREAKING NEWS’!

Is ruling out a soft lunar landing, really ‘breaking news’?

Recently we have had from the BBC as, naturally, ‘BREAKING NEWS’, that very ordinary story about the unlikelihood of a type of landing on the moon.

It was declared in the report: ‘A US lunar lander has “no chance” of making a soft landing on the Moon due to a fuel leak, the company behind the mission says.

‘Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic said there was enough propellant to operate its Peregrine lander as a spacecraft’.

It was BREAKING NEWS’ on Sunday that Lord Cameron had said to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg“We are prepared to back our words with actions”, and on the same show, came further BREAKING NEWS’ that Sir Keir Starmer had proclaimed he would consider supporting further action “on its merits”.

‘I DON’T BELIEVE IT..!’

On the following day it was supposedly crucial that we were informed by the organisation: ‘BREAKING NEWS – Girls “left at mercy” of grooming gangs in Rochdale…’

Or then there was the latest details on the violence in Ecuador, which was also given as ‘BREAKING NEWS’. Armed men had broken into a television studio apparently.

On Tuesday the BBC ‘reported’: “BREAKING NEWS Post Office boss Nick Read to face MP’s questions over scandal…”. That day we also had from them: BREAKING NEWS Fujitsu’s global chief executive tells BBC the firm is sorry…”.

Yesterday, the corporation gave us more ‘BREAKING NEWS’ declaring: “Oppenheimer leads Bafta Film Award nominations with 13…”.

Then there’s Royal news. The BBC offered on the same day: “Breaking News: Prince William visits his wife Kate in hospital after she had abdominal surgery”.

Lots of mundane stories are given as ‘breaking news’…

But these are only a few examples, because there have been many more.

A completely bland statement from a company or anonymous ‘celebrity’ – ‘BREAKING NEWS’.

A totally vacuous comment by a person in the headlines which gives NO new information whatsoever – ‘BREAKING NEWS.

Plenty of the ‘breaking news’ stories send people to sleep!

The result of, or evidence given in, a fairly standard court case – ‘BREAKING NEWS.

Another instance came as Vladimir Putin started a news conference, and I received an urgent news update that his war aims were “unchanged”.

It was ‘BREAKING NEWSsupposedly, that:Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Russians that peace with Ukraine will only take place “when we achieve our objectives”.

A few hours later we also had from the giant corporation as ‘BREAKING NEWS– “LIVE ‘High probability’ Gaynor Lord went into Norwich river – police”. Sadly it was also ‘BREAKING NEWS‘ that a body was later found.

On that same day there was, too, the result of a court case in Scotland, which was reported, of course, as ‘BREAKING NEWS.

It was seemingly very important we were told that: “Two men and a woman have been found guilty of the murder of a schoolgirl in West Dunbartonshire more than 27 years ago. 

The ‘BREAKING NEWS’ report added excitedly: “The body of Caroline Glachan, 14, was discovered on the banks of the River Leven in Renton on 25 August 1996”.

But it isn’t just news – sports stories too can be ‘breaking’!

On Monday we heard as ‘BREAKING NEWS’ from the BBC that Everton and Nottingham Forest had both been charged with breaching financial rules.

On the day of the Scottish story, we were also offered an ‘urgent’ sports update by them (as well as from other media outlets), about a woman referee taking charge of a football match.

Rebecca Welch was getting into the big time -‘breaking news’

Reporters stated as ‘BREAKING NEWS‘: “Rebecca Welch will become the first female referee for a Premier League fixture when she officiates Fulham’s match against Burnley on 23 December.

Two days later we were given as ‘BREAKING NEWS’ the latest information about the UK’s entry for Eurovision.

Vitally important…

It was seemingly vitally important that we were told: Pop star Olly Alexander will represent the United Kingdom at next year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden”.

BREAKING NEWS – Phil Parry is leaving his computer!

Once again the BREAKING NEWS report continued excitedly: “The former Years and Years frontman will hope to improve on the UK’s disappointing performance this year, when Mae Muller came second to last”.

Maybe I should join them – BREAKING NEWS Phil Parry is getting up from his desk, away from his computer, and moving into the kitchen…” 

 

‘BUY MY BOOK!’

The memories of Phil’s decades long award-winning career in journalism (when news was genuinely ‘breaking’) as he was gripped by the incurable neurological condition, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!

Publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.