Why breaking news sounds the same

Last updated 17:49 04/07/2013
Kent Brockman
20th Century Fox
MORE ON THIS STORY: The Simpsons' Kent Brockman.

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Whenever a big news event breaks, you'd swear broadcasters were all reading from the same script. We've all heard these tired phrases:

We begin with breaking news tonight ...

This story is rapidly changing ...

You saw it here first just minutes ago ...

Take a live look behind me ...

Well, in the US, many local broadcasters are using the same script, cynically crafted by a Californian consulting firm, SmithGeiger, to keep viewers hooked.

According to broadcast writing coach Mervin Block, SmithGeiger has supplied its clients with a three-page list of words and phrases to promote urgency.

SmithGeiger's paper, Changing the language of the newscast, explains: "Your voice, your attitude, your energy can make stories urgent ... so do the words you choose. The language we use in the newscast is often a key part of conveying that we have the very latest, that our newscast has the news that is happening now ...

"Each person who touches copy needs to challenge themselves to constantly find the right words that will capture the sense of immediacy and urgency we know viewers are demanding of us."

Here are some of the phrases SmithGeiger advises its clients use:

we do have some breaking news right away

rapid developments

this story is rapidly changing

we are going to be covering this live for you

we are just getting started

but first we begin with

new developments are unfolding

this is a rapidly developing situation

breaking as we go on air

you'll hear in just seconds

we are going to stay on this story every step of the way

we have new information for you as soon as anything happens

we are not stopping with our coverage until this story is done

According to SmithGeiger's website, "37 of the top 55 television markets are influenced by our counsel" and "several of the biggest names in cable and satellite television" are clients.


Read Block's full, withering analysis here.

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