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Breaking News

There's going to be a lot less "Breaking News" at CNN from now on.

That's a very good thing.

According to The New York Times, CNN's recently appointed CEO Chris Licht has instructed his team that the news organization's almost ubiquitous “Breaking News” banner should be "reserved for instances of truly urgent events."

What's really "Breaking News" if everything is "Breaking News"? Image credit: CNN

That's the way it always should have been, of course: "Breaking News" implies really important information that's just been discovered and deserves our immediate attention.

But over time, in a neverending race to be known as the first to "break" a story -- any story, no matter the significance -- CNN used the banner more and more frequently until it became essentially meaningless.

This calls to mind the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, which you've likely heard a few times as a child. A young boy thought it would be amusing to scare his village into thinking he was being hunted by a wolf when none existed. The first time he did it, the villagers were fooled. The second time he did it, they were fooled again. But the third time the villagers heard the boy cry for help, they assumed he was up to his usual tricks and ignored him.

Unfortunately, that third time, there really was a wolf... and the boy became its dinner.

CNN's "breaking news" banner, when used for anything and everything, becomes the equivalent of that foolish boy claiming there's an emergency. But in the case of the news organization, the threat isn't a wolf... it's the erosion of consumer attention and trust.

CNN isn't the only company guilty of overusing its "breaking news" banner, though.

It's likely whatever it is you're working on right now is important... because if it wasn't, you probably wouldn't be working on it.

But is it actually urgent?

Perhaps... but unless you work in a hospital's emergency room, it's unlikely everything you do every day is "breaking news" that always warrants your immediate, undivided attention.

Believing "important" is a synonym for "urgent" is a good way to burn yourself out, and a great way to have your employees start to question your leadership skills.

When everything in your organization is "breaking", it's a sure sign something is broken.

Use your "Breaking News" banner sparingly.


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