BREAKING NEWS FROM CNN!: Not everything is “breaking news.”
That’s the word from new CNN boss Chris Licht. He sent out a memo to staff on Thursday saying the network is cutting back on the “Breaking News” banner that runs far too often.
Licht’s note said, “We are truth-tellers, focused on informing, not alarming our viewers. Something I have heard from both people inside and outside the organization is complaints we overuse the ‘Breaking News’ banner. I agree. It has become such a fixture on every channel and network that its impact has become lost on the audience.”
For example, CNN once used the “Breaking News” banner while talking about the 102nd anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. That was an extreme case several years ago, but if you watch CNN regularly — or any cable news network, for that matter — you often see the “Breaking News” tag on stories that clearly are neither breaking nor that important.
Like all viewers, I have occasionally been burned by coming across CNN’s “Breaking News” banner. I naturally stop to see what the critical news is, only to quickly become annoyed when I realize it’s not really breaking news.
On one hand, the banner did what CNN probably wanted me to do: stop and watch their network.
But on the other hand, CNN’s credibility is damaged when viewers, after just a few seconds, realize they are being duped. I’m guessing that at some point, the “Breaking News” banner started getting put up without the control room even giving it much thought. It just became a habit. And once the bar is set too low, practically anything after that must be considered breaking news.
It’s good to see CNN recalibrating. In fact, the habit has already started to be broken. Licht wrote, “You’ve already seen far less of the ‘Breaking News’ banner across our programming. The tenor of our voice holistically has to reflect that. As I have said, we must be vital, relevant, and respected — and how we show up for our audiences, in every story, in every part of the country, and around the world, matters.”
Licht is right when he says it’s a common complaint among viewers. I hear from them all the time, just as I hear from those who complain that the major networks often start their evening news broadcasts with overly-dramatic music and an anchor saying, “Breaking news as we come on the air tonight …”
For those networks, they should drop the drama and just give me the news. I’m already there. You don’t need to pitch me.
Let’s see if CNN starts a trend that then carries over to the other networks. Let’s hope so.
Adding a note
The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial came to an end this week when a jury found that both actors had defamed the other. However, the jury awarded much more money in damages to Depp than Heard. At the center of Depp’s suit was an op-ed that Heard wrote in The Washington Post in 2018.
After Wednesday’s verdict, the Post added an editor’s note to the op-ed that reads:
In 2019, Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard for defamation arising out of this 2018 op-ed. On June 1, 2022, following a trial in Fairfax County, Va. Circuit Court, a jury found Heard liable on three counts for the following statements, which Depp claimed were false and defamatory: (1) “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” (2) “Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.” (3) “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.” The jury separately found that Depp, through his lawyer Adam Waldman, defamed Heard in one of three counts in her countersuit.
Notable hire at Chicago Sun-Times
Jennifer Kho has been named executive editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, becoming the first woman and person of color to lead that newsroom. Kho is the former managing editor of HuffPost and the Guardian US.
The Sun-Times’ David Roeder wrote, “Steve Warmbir, a 22-year veteran of the Sun-Times and its interim editor-in-chief, said he is leaving the paper. Warmbir, a longtime investigative reporter, was a candidate for the top editing role. The job has been open since the fall of 2020.”
Nykia Wright, CEO of the Sun-Times, said in a statement, “The Chicago Sun-Times is widely known as the hardest-working newsroom in the country, and Jennifer has that same tenacious spirit, as well as a transformative view of what local journalism means to the community. She has a passion for local journalism, community engagement, deepening audience connections, and serving news audiences across digital platforms. I am thrilled to have her leadership and her vision to carry us into the Sun-Times’ next era.”
Now here’s some journalism that might interest you over the weekend …
Retired photographer Nick Ut writes an op-ed for The Washington Post: “A single photo can change the world. I know, because I took one that did.” You will certainly recognize the photo taken by Ut.
From Ukraine, The Los Angeles Times’ Nabih Bulos (with photography by Carolyn Cole) with “They’re victims too. Who cares for animals during wartime?”
Also in the Los Angeles Times, Stephen Battaglio with “50 years after the Watergate break-in, John Dean relives the scandal that changed his life.”
The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and Matt Richtel with “A Disturbing New Pattern in Mass Shootings: Young Assailants.”
Eloisa Lopez, Karen Lema and Clare Baldwin with a Reuters Special Report: “A pathologist, a priest and a hunt for justice in the Philippines.”
Vulture’s Jesse Hassenger with “The 17 Best SNL Sketches of Season 47.”
In the latest episode of her “Sway” podcast for The New York Times, Kara Swisher talks to Times tech columnist Kevin Roose and Puck News founding partner William Cohan in “‘The Elon That We’re Seeing Today Is Not the Same One We Saw a Couple Years Ago.’”
I linked to this in Thursday’s newsletter, but thought I’d link to it again in case you missed it. It’s getting a lot of attention and deservedly so. The Guardian’s Moira Donegan with “The Amber Heard-Johnny Depp trial was an orgy of misogyny.”
I’m a huge fan of “Jeopardy!” and closely followed who would end up being the permanent replacement for the late Alex Trebek. I actually thought the show got it right by naming Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik, but many wanted LeVar Burton to get the job. He talked about that and more with The Ringer’s Claire McNear in “‘It Really Wasn’t What They Said It Was’: LeVar Burton Opens Up About ‘Jeopardy!’ and Hosting the National Spelling Bee.”
If you’re an older sports fan, you’ll enjoy this Q&A. Awful Announcing’s Michael Grant with: “Norman Chad on the World Series of Poker, his falling out with Tony Kornheiser, and why he doesn’t gamble on sports.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More resources for journalists
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