News flash: It's all just news anyway ... isn't it?

Australian prime minister Harold Holt disappeared in 1967 while spear-fishing at Portsea near Melbourne. 								 Photo: Evening Standard/Getty Images
Australian prime minister Harold Holt disappeared in 1967 while spear-fishing at Portsea near Melbourne. Photo: Evening Standard/Getty Images

SO you are sitting in your favourite lounge watching the TV program that comes on at the same time every day. What will make you sit up and take notice?

Is it the dramatic headline that says something like "News Flash" or some dramatic announcement that interrupts your favourite commercial?

Not so long ago I saw a newspaper group's website (nothing to do with this group) listing more than a dozen news items and carrying the overall heading "breaking news".

This reminded me of a question asked of me several months ago. I thought little of it at the time, but since then I have noticed many items all introduced by an announcer telling us breathlessly that the "shock horror" story about to follow is "breaking news".

And every time, the "breaking news" item has been in the news program anyway - a program set aside to tell us what is happening in the world around us.

It started me wondering what the difference is between news and breaking news. Isn't TV news supposed to tell us the latest happenings from locally and around the world?

I consulted some dictionaries to find out what they had to say about breaking news and how breaking news differed from news.

The Collins dictionary said breaking news was "news of events that have taken place very recently or are in the process of taking place". Oxford said breaking news was "news that is arriving about events that have just happened".

The term arose because originally breaking news was important enough to stop a program on radio or TV. It might have involved the death of a national leader or some calamity that warranted the decision to break into Days of Our Lives to tell people about it. That was the meaning of "breaking".

In more recent times the early preparation of a TV news bulletin meant that anything that happened after the bulletin was completed was termed "breaking".

While I'm in the whingeing mood, I might as well mention some other of my pet hates. How many people say "in the not too distant future" instead of "soon"?

I agree with Susie Dunn of Armidale who complained about the use of haitch instead of aitch.

Notice how many people these days talk about something being between "this to that" instead of being between "this and that". Some real estate agents love telling you a house is "a mile to town" instead of "a mile from town". Apparently the way they say it makes it seem closer.


ON another matter altogether, February 18 marks the 100th anniversary of the day Louis Becke died. Louis Becke, born in Port Macquarie, died in Sydney on February 18, 1913. This prominent author of Pacific Island tales, who appeared in a Brisbane court charged with piracy, wrote many books and in some people's eyes knew much more about life on the ocean waves than Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling or Joseph Conrad, but sadly these days very few people remember him.


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