By Dan Miller
November 21, 2008
Sometimes I think news folks are a bit too eager to label stories "Bulletin" or "News Alert" or "Breaking News" or "Flash" etc.
Not many years ago, much of our news came to us via Associated Press and UPI teletype machines.
The big, loud, clunky printers stood lined against a wall here at Channel 4 and in every newsroom in the country.
The news content was printed on long streams of paper that was pulled through the typing mechanism. Everyday we'd go through several boxes of paper feeding those old machines.
Whenever a "Bulletin" or "News Alert" came across the wires, we'd be alerted by the sound of a loud, ringing bell.... and we'd know something big and important was happening somewhere in the world.
If there were lots of bells, everybody in the newsroom would scamper to the wire machines to see what had happened.
It was almost always something urgent, and too often something unpleasant.
It might be the death of a prominent person, or perhaps a plane crash, or an important statement from the president.
Nowadays, the old wire machines are relics of the past.
The news services now send stories direct to the computers on our desks in the newsroom.
When something happens that warrants a "bulletin" or "alert" designation, the slug, or headline, for that story is displayed with a bright color.
It's red when it first appears, then yellow in the follow-up alerts.
No matter how long someone has been in the news business.... even the jaded journalists.... we all pay special attention when a red or yellow "alert" or "bulletin" pops up on the wires.
So when I saw the stack of brightly colored bulletins from Associated Press, I felt that familiar little adrenalin rush, knowing I was about to read something really important.
Would this be a major story?
Would it be something we'd be talking about for days?
Would we have to interrupt programming for a bulletin?
Would this change our lineup for the upcoming evening newscast?
Here, verbatim, is the text of the "News Alert"....
LONDON (AP) - Court schedule says Madonna, Guy Ritchie to get preliminary divorce decree in London on Friday.
Am I missing something?
Bells and whistles?!!
I suppose my appreciation of critical, life-changing celebrity news must be running thin.
I'll be honest.... I didn't even know they were married.