What defines breaking news

Published 3:37 pm Thursday, April 13, 2023

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The Cambridge Dictionary defines breaking news as information that is being received and broadcast about an event that has just happened or just begun. While some experts refer to breaking news as events that are unexpected, such as a building fire or plane crash, others consider news of importance shared for the first time as breaking coverage.

Either way, with multiple media outlets – television, radio, newspapers, and social media – covering the same developments, there is fierce competition to get the story out first.

Community newspaper staff sometimes feel challenged in this area, working up against larger outlets with larger staffing to cover up-to-the-minute news.

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That’s why we rely on personal connections to “keep us in the know” so we can share information with communities directly impacted by the events.

Last week, four breaking news stories came to our attention.

In Butler County, Christopher Bradley Bush was sentenced to life in prison on March 30 following his conviction for the 2018 murder of J.J. Mount.

The following Monday, the Butler County School Board hired Demopolis High School coach Brian Seymore as Greenville High School teacher, coach, and athletic director.

And, in Lowndes County, Emergency Management Agency Director Rodney Rudolph called newspaper staff in the wee hours of the morning on March 30 to report an overturned tanker carrying hazardous material near Fort Deposit, causing a shutdown on Interstate 65 while crews worked to safely clean up the crash site.

Meanwhile, Crenshaw County Sheriff’s investigators called on March 31 asking for our help to share news that deputies were chasing Deshonta Robinson, 26, near Highland Home after he evaded arrest for outstanding warrants. The same evening, officers reported a stalled truck halted traffic on Alabama Highway 97.

I was asleep when Rudolph called. And when Crenshaw County Sheriff’s investigator Chris Stewart phoned about Robinson and the stalled truck, I was in Ramer, at the Dollar General.

Where else would I be at 9 p.m. on a Friday night?

For readers who first saw our articles on social media, these events were breaking news. Thanks to the help of relationships with first responders, initial reports of each situation broke through community newspaper websites.

When Seymore accepted the Greenville High School position, I was sitting in the room. The new coach paused to text another, larger media outlet the news before he ever stepped onto the platform to address Butler County’s Board of Education and area residents.

The other outlet, who received a tip, interviewed Seymore, wrote the story, and shared the news while the coach’s acceptance was still on his lips.

But I wrote the article immediately after and posted it on social media, because that’s what we do. We cover the news that’s important to our communities.

The headline did not include “BREAKING NEWS” because we were not the first out of the gate. But, we posted it immediately anyway because it was important to our readers and, breaking news or not, what is important to you is important to us.

Equally important is that our community know how to relay breaking news information to us so we can accurately report it in a timely manner. Many assume we’re the first to know of an event that affects us all, but sometimes we’re the last to know, thus we need your help. If you have information on a breaking news item, please call (334) 382-3111 or email news@greenvilleadvocate.com to let us know. While we may already be aware of it, it’s important not to assume we do, thus the need for your help.