Another Word the Media Should Really Learn to Use Properly

breaking newsFor what seems like this entire year, the phrase “Breaking News” has been questioned. You may remember a certain Malaysian airline flight that disappeared without a trace. Every story that came out was “breaking news.”

A rumor was heard: breaking news. A psychic had a dream: breaking news. A news crew may have a lead: breaking news. It was the news station who cried wolf all day long. We even had a great story about MSNBC’s Chuck Todd and his blatant disregard for the inherent meaning of the phrase.

Let’s now add to that lexicon of misnomers: Exclusive. Shall we? And TMZ, we’re looking at you.

Exclusive (n.): A news item, story, or feature article that only one broadcast media, newspaper, or magazine may carry or publish.

Get that? “Only one.” Meaning: You own it. That is your story. Lately, TV network news has been screwing this up too. When someone does a media tour, hopping from station to station, that is not an exclusive. That’s someone giving you an interview before the next guy gets one.

Everyone is so happy to run over their own mother for ratings that they forget the American consumer of news is a skosh smarter than that. And then came TMZ. If it’s smut or seedy photos, their your huckleberry. However, when said pictures are released on the wire — as in, to the world — just because you were first to push it out does not mean it was an exclusive.

It just means you were fast. And quite possibly in need of a dictionary.

Take this argument that professional wrestling sports entertainment is for white trash only, WWE “diva” Emma was caught stealing from … wait for it … Walmart. To wit, she got busted, got a mug shot, and got embarrassed (also, fired and re-hired by Vince McMahon).

emma mug shot

Sure, emblazon your logo all over it. That’s fine. However, see that description: “Exclusive Mug Shot.” Wait, what?

To prove the point that TMZ (as well as some other producers at real news stations) seriously need a crash course in ‘hooked on phonics,’ the great Romensko called Hartford, Connecticut Police Department PIO Brian Foley about that terminology. Foley concurred that nobody gets an exclusive on mug shots because they are released to everyone.

Yet, there it is, under the guise of a gift-wrapped memento only for their ne’er-do-well photographers.

National Media? This is on you.

We are so big on ethics, scruples, and standards; yet, TV national news abuse sacrosanct terminology like “breaking news” and “exclusive” on a weekly basis. We should get back to the standards, but this hack-turned-flack wonders if the those standards are about as ancient as ‘The Waltons.’

For the sake of grammar and proper English, stop it. Just read a book before you have to announce something is an exclusive when it’s not. Or breaking when it’s not. I have an exclusive opinion: That’s just plain broke.