Breaking news is at our fingertips, every minute of every day. You’d think it would be a case of information overload and far too many facts to even digest.

Has the addition of social media to our news cycle created more news? Well of course not. There’s still the same amount of news as there always has been. What has changed is the concept of what is newsworthy.

The growing pressure on news sources to actually have news every minute of every day is leading to an approach that can best be described as ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’.

‘Sensationalised but insignificant’ seems to be the new approach to what constitutes news.

There has been a perfect example of this brewing over the last 24 hours, culminating in some very entertaining minute-by-minute updates on the Sydney Morning Herald ‘LIVE Blog’ this morning.

Is 'breaking news' on social media devaluing what constitutes 'news'

The Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard leadership challenge is undoubtedly news. However, when coverage is required minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow it leads to these types of ‘live’ updates:

8.29am: Hang onto your seats folks, the batle [sic] has begun. Tim Lester wraps up the incredible events from overnight:

At 8.29am the SMH blog was so eager to have an ‘update’ on the leadership challenge, that this is what they came up with (please note the typo was taken from the SMH blog, maybe it was included to add a sense of urgency to the live update, ‘we don’t even have time to spell check and correct spelling mistakes, this is all happening so quickly!’).

This update is referring to events from last night which have already been reported on. The matter of the fact is there is nothing ‘new’ to update or report on.

Oh wait, hold the press, another update on the leadership challenge just in:

9.04am: Stay tuned from the latest updates from the Rudd presser, which has just started.
Meanwhile a rare dose of perspective from a politician, in the form of Greens MP Christine Milne:
Christine Milne @senatormilne
Reported deaths of courageous journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik amidst shocking atrocities in Syria, a reality check on what is news.
 

This ‘live’ update is merely instructing people to stay tuned, in addition to referring to something that actually is news (although totally unrelated to the Gillard/Rudd debate), being the death of two journalists in Syria. Slightly tongue in cheek on the SMH’s behalf perhaps, as they refer to a serious news story tweeted about by the Greens MP who hasn’t lost perspective on what constitutes news.

In this era of instant and abundant news, is the SMH only a classic example of how far the media need to go these days to keep their head above the water and ensure they are perceived as ‘the’ source of news? Or has social media simply created this incessant need for information at all costs, devaluing what constitutes ‘news’?

What are your thoughts?

-  Gill Asbury