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Our evolving news cycle: hurry up and wait (analysis of the unfolding of the news of a tragic plane crash last night)
January 8th, 2020

I truly hope I’m not writing this analysis in bad taste, as the fact is 176 people died last night when a Ukrainian International Airlines plane crashed – unbelievably tragic, and my heart goes out to everyone who lost their lives and their families.

The media studies graduate in me can’t help but analyze the news side of this story, and the very intriguing way it unfolded in the news cycle late last night.


10:40pm: my iphone buzzed with a breaking news alert from the Apple News app – this just in from CNN, Boeing 737 crashes in Iran.

My heart skipped a beat. After all the alarming news involving Iran and the US, I was horrified and scared, and wanted to know what was happening.

10:40pm… just before 11pm news time. I was curious how this would play out on the 11 o’clock news. And then I thought, wow this is right before news time, and some of the world just found out before news time through their phones.

I immediately tuned the TV to CNN, as I figured they’d be covering the news that they had sent to my Apple News app.

Nothing.

Continued coverage of the missile strike and escalating tensions between Iran and the U.S.; nothing about the plane crash.

11pm: news time – I flicked between CNN, CBC, CTV… Nothing.

Twitter was starting to light up with 737 crash in Iran Tweets. Around 11:05pm there was even live video footage on Twitter of someone filming the plane on fire.

Nothing on TV. CNN, broadcasting live breaking news (as opposed to the other stations who were onto their traditional 11pm news shows), hadn’t mentioned anything on TV.

On Twitter, news outlet after news outlet started Tweeting the breaking news. Nothing on TV.

11:30pm: CNN, CBC websites both had headline stories of the breaking news.

Nothing on TV.

I didn’t watch the full 11 o’clock news broadcast, but I was deeply intrigued how this unfolded. I was expecting some hand to appear beside Anderson Cooper delivering him a note about the breaking news.


What’s going on?! I’ve never before literally watched the world and myself be ahead of breaking news on TV. I think back to the Desert Storm war, when CNN was in its infancy on TV, and how we were glued to the broadcasts.

I even think to 9/11, pre-Twitter, and how the news unfolded on TV. I can only imagine how intensely horrifying that day would have been if we’d had the social media layer of live reporting from the scene. I don’t even really want to think about that…


What intrigues me about last night though, is that this appears to be a watershed evolution time for media: are we at the cusp of television newscasts becoming as out-dated as newspapers for breaking news? Are we so instant in our world that the tv can’t even catch up, even though it’s live? Have we over-saturated our news sources so much that we don’t have the resources to get the news to Anderson Cooper to report?

Let me zero in on that last comment about “news resources” – because someone had to press send on the button that sent the 10:40pm news alert to my iphone. Some team was updating Twitter from the news sources and building the website copy that went live shortly after 11pm. But, for all the resources that go in to mount a nightly news show… no one delivered the breaking news on TV for an hour!

Maybe there’s just too much news to report right now, particularly about Iran yesterday?

Nonetheless, it’s very intriguing how the resources of our news reporting have shifted so dramatically.

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