When ‘Breaking Overnight’ Was Broken

The morning after American Pharoah scooted down the homestretch, ABC News also pulled off a remarkable stretch—and what a stretch!

Twelve hours after Pharoah won the race at Belmont Park, Paula Faris, a co-anchor on the weekend “Good Morning America,” said, “Breaking overnight, American Pharoah rules.” Breaking overnight? If that’s not a stretch, I don’t know what is.

Her lead story about Pharoah’s winning was not breaking news; it was olds. The race was run the previous day, Saturday, June 6, just before 7 p.m. ET. That was 12 hours before GMA went on the air.

Shortly after delivering the opening about breaking overnight, Paula Faris introed the Pharoaonic story, then said, “Let’s get it out [whatever that means] to Ron [Claiborne], who was right there trackside overnight, a witness to history.” Again, overnight. But why would Ron Claiborne have been trackside all night? Just horsing around? For almost two minutes during her presentation, ABC even ran a topic bar that proclaimed, “BREAKING OVERNIGHT.” Yes, all caps.

Nothing associated with Pharoah happened during the night—except, back in his barn, he might have slept and even dreamt of a gold-plated bucket of oats. And dalliances with fillies.

The first words Paula Faris uncorked—”Breaking overnight, American Pharoah rules”—are also grammatically faulty. “Breaking overnight” is a participial phrase, and it modifies “American Pharoah.” That literally means the horse is breaking overnight. Diagnosis: we have a dangling participle. And we sure don’t want our participles to dangle.

While ABC was overnighting it, CBS used a word that seems forbidden in many broadcast newsrooms: yesterday. Jane Pauley (sitting in for Charles Osgood on “Sunday Morning”) said: “American Pharoah, the first triple crown winner in 37 years. A sellout crowd shared the thrill yesterday along with our Michelle Miller.” Yesterday? Yes, yesterday. Plain, unadulterated, unfalsified yesterday.

CNN’s 7 a.m. newscast that day and NBC News’s “Today” show also stuck with truthful yesterday. Anchor Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday” at 9 a.m. ET didn’t mention Pharoah. No phony breaking overnight for any of them (except ABC)—at least not on the morning of June 7, 2015.

© Mervin Block 2015