breaking news graphicStop the Presses: Let’s see: Brad Pitt turned 50, Justin Bieber said he may retire from music (what a loss!), and The X Factor crowned a winner. Some of the items that constituted noteworthy entertainment “news” over the past few days.

But what seriously gets me going is the over-abuse of the term “Breaking News” on the cable news networks. The kicker was turning on CNN last week and actually seeing the “Breaking News” banner atop the headline, “What the Duck?” as the lead story on one of its evening news programs. Of course, it was all about those controversial comments made by Phil Robertson, below, the scruffy paterfamilias of the confoundingly popular reality series Duck Dynasty. Earth-shaking all right.

robertson duck dynasty

It makes you wonder what the networks will employ when something really big happens. I mean, in the old days, “Breaking News” had to do with assassinations, sudden deaths, huge natural catastrophes, Challenger-explosion kind of things. “Breaking News” meant something. Now, one is so inured that maybe a color coding alert, such as was used for terror threats, may be appropriate: red = the real deal, orange = sort of, yellow = not so much … you get the picture.

“Breaking News” should also, by its very definition, be “live news.” Another questionable practice is regularly slapping the breaking news motto on taped programming. Grab viewers as they surf by and get them to stop, no matter how misleading the means.

So much for journalistic principles (as the ghost of Walter Cronkite cringes).