As if we needed another reason to love Ron Magers, now the retiring anchorman has come out against television’s obnoxious fetish for branding every story “breaking news.”
‘Breaking news’ is a great idea,” he declared. “But if you label everything ‘breaking news,’ you’ve now become that fanatic who clings to the idea until the idea is no good anymore.”
Magers made the comments in what amounted to an exit interview with his longtime former anchor partner Carol Marin. In an intimate and revealing conversation (here is the link), Marin questioned Magers Tuesday on “Chicago Tonight,” the nightly news program on Window to the World Communications public station WTTW-Channel 11.
Capping a 51-year career in broadcast journalism, Magers is retiring May 25 as 5 and 10 p.m. news anchor at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. He and Marin anchored together at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 from 1985 until 1997, when they famously quit in protest over management’s decision to hire Jerry Springer as a news commentator.
Magers remains no less outspoken about the judgment of his bosses today. In blasting “breaking news,” he’s taking aim not only at the industry in general but at his own station. ABC 7 has been among the worst offenders in beating the label to death on its newscasts.
When Marin asked Magers about cliches he tries to avoid as an anchor, Magers said: “There are some things that will come up that I won’t read or I’ll try to change just to simply make them more ‘me.’ We all have some little pet peeves along the way.
“My current pet peeve is ‘breaking news.’ It seems to me that ‘breaking news’ has become . . . a guy named Tom Robbins wrote a book some time ago, and in it he had a wonderful quote about how good ideas get perverted, how they get seized by fanatics, and they cling to them until their last fingernail breaks, and they get twisted and turned. The wonderful line of his is ‘how the loving teachings of Jesus became the starving cliches of Christianity.’ ” [Actual quote: “How the loving ideas of Jesus Christ became the sinister cliches of Christianity.”]
“I feel that way about ‘breaking news.’ ‘Breaking news’ is a great idea. If there’s breaking news, you should do it. And people are interested in breaking news. But if you label everything ‘breaking news,’ you’ve now become that fanatic who clings to the idea until the idea is no good anymore.
“So I struggle with ‘breaking news’ and some of those kinds of things. Television news, because it’s trying to ring a bell with the audience, wants to brand things.”
Added Magers: “I think the words we say all count for something.”