The Epistemology of Breaking News

Breaking news is a term used to describe current events that are important enough to interrupt scheduled programming. It can also be referred to as a news flash or special report.

As a news genre, breaking news promises fast and continuously updated information about public events (Usher 2018). It therefore requires the fulfillment of knowledge claims.

Continuous news updates

Continuous news updates are a common strategy for media sites, but can also be used by small businesses with a Web site. This allows a business to update its site frequently and consistently, resulting in a steady stream of traffic from search engines. It also increases the chances of getting ranked higher on search engine results pages, since search engines reward active sites with better rankings.

In the days before 24-hour news, broadcast networks would break the news at :31 minutes past the hour, if an event warranted it. Editors operate under the assumption that they’ll have a new audience every hour, or at least every three hours (a holdover from drive time radio programming). It’s this mindset that makes the repetition of breaking news so prevalent on television and online.

Some scholars argue that the nonstop news cycle degrades news by making it less in-depth and by allowing rumor and speculation to spread. They also believe that faster news cycles reduce the ability of journalists to verify facts.

As a result, many people stop watching or reading the news altogether and instead turn to social media for their information. This is particularly true for young adults, who have become accustomed to breaking news updates and the sensational nature of these stories. Newport Academy treatment center therapist Don Grant has observed that his young clients often suffer from stress and anxiety related to breaking news.

Live broadcasting

Live broadcasting is a type of video that’s streamed in real time, and it’s often used to capture events like sports games, award shows, or even breaking news. However, it’s important to distinguish between live streaming and live broadcasting, as these two concepts involve very different processes. While live streaming relies on technological solutions that enable synchronous distribution and consumption around the world, live broadcasting is about enabling real-time value exchanges in a dynamic environment. To achieve this, broadcasting platforms need to understand the points of participation in their content and foster participatory experiences in real time. One example of this is virtual gifting, where viewers can use in-app currency to send gifts to on-screen personalities. This is a powerful way to build relationships with viewers and create value in real time.

Modality of knowing

In news production, journalists rely on a range of discursive resources to justify knowledge claims. These include modal verbs and the construction of expert identities. They also engage in practices of attribution, which can vary according to the circumstances and the context of a news event. These practices are central to the epistemological challenges posed by breaking news. The study of breaking news focuses on two distinct sub-genres: continuous news updates and live broadcasting. Both are associated with a high level of epistemic dissonance, which is the result of news reporting that fails to fulfill its intended epistemic claims.

The continuous news update promises important and urgent information within a defined timeframe. This is achieved through an organized inflow of information from various sources, such as SOS emergency services and police, as well as media tips. However, this inflow is not always accurate and can even be wrong. Nevertheless, the editors prioritize this news over other news items.

As a result, the news editor may find herself in a situation of epistemic dissonance when she is unable to follow up on the alert information that was published as breaking news. For instance, if the alert informs her of a car accident that is already in progress, she will not have enough time to prepare a new story from the scene. In this situation, she may downgrade the original alert to a lesser status and therefore lose the attention of her audience.


As platforms become increasingly dominant in the news ecosystem, even subscription-based news outlets struggle to survive. Deb Aikat, professor of journalism and media at the University of North Carolina, points out that a subscription-based newspaper may devote significant time and resources to breaking a national news story, only to have platform-based news outlets publish a nearly identical story for free. This has led to what some participants at a recent workshop called a “data oligarchy” that controls both consumers and advertisers, and is undermining the revenue streams of local news outlets. A number of solutions have been suggested, including leveraging antitrust and competition laws to level the playing field for traditional news organizations. These measures would also include data portability and interoperability legislation, similar to the phone number portability that helped increase competition in the telecommunications industry.