In the hours and days after the WTC and Pentagon attacks in 2001, we all became acclimated to the “zippers” scrolling right to left at the bottom of TV screens with news alerts, and to “Breaking...” and “Developing...” banners across the top of Web sites. And with all the revelations and disturbing stories that tumbled forth in the attacks’ aftermath–the identity of the hijackers, the arrest of “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, the anthrax scares, the deployment of U.S. troops to Afghanistan, etc.–the urgency was warranted.
But it strikes me as hyperbolic and silly that news organizations have since settled into a permanent zipper/breaking/developing mode. Nothing brings this into focus more than this “Developing” headline I saw atop CNN’s home page this morning, as 9/11 commemorations were going on:
Under no rational circumstances can this be determined a “developing” news story. It’s a human-interest story, a tender moment that just happened to be observed by some cameras and reporters. In what sense could it further “develop”? Citing the story this way just cheapens the firefighter’s grief and tears.
UPDATE: As if to underscore the meaninglessness of the breaking/developing rubric, CNN updated its homepage an hour later–on the seventh anniversary of 9/11–with this terribly urgent banner: