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Breaking News: All the news that’s fit to put on social media

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I’ve been on a Google Maps Mania kick lately and have been putting tons of stuff on my Pocket account – intending to read and share them later. The goal is to spread all of that great stuff out over the next few weeks. The problem, of course, is that there’s gonna be new stuff.

Sigh. So many cool things. So little time. First cool thing? Breaking News.

According to their own propaganda, Breaking News

brings you the biggest breaking stories as they happen, 24 hours a day. Our experienced, caffeinated journalists scour the planet for breaking news, quickly sifting out unconfirmed reports and duplicate stories. We boil it down to a reliable, real-time feed that focuses on just what’s new. No need to keep refreshing; updates appear automatically, and you can find us on just about every web, mobile and social channel available.

Hopefully not too caffeinated.

But their description is pretty accurate. It’s a very handy, seemingly reliable source of information organized with an easy to use framework. It’s free – which is also nice. You can use it in the traditional web-based version or download their app to just about any sort of mobile device. Personally, I like the mobile iOS version (though I’m not a fan of the NBC Nightly News ads that sit in the corner and stare at you all day.)

I’ve been using it for a few days and it seems like a nice complement to Flipboard, my other news organizing tool. Breaking News does what it says – gives you incredibly current news, right now. Flipboard acts as a followup tool with more in-depth coverage.breaking news

But I’m still learning all of the tips and tricks that Breaking News offers. Who knows? It might become my go-to tool.

Breaking News gives you what it considers the latest news from around the world while providing a series of broader “On-Going Stories.” Current On-Going Stories are such things as the GOP suing President Obama, the Ebola outbreak, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Ukrainian airliner crash. You can also search by keyword or topic. When you are in a specific topic or On-Going Story, Breaking News then provides related topics and sub-topics that allow you to dig a bit deeper. You’ll also get a quick synopsis of the topic and other links such as Wikipedia.

breaking news mapI also really like that the tool gives you a chance to see where the stories they highlight originate on a handy Google Maps-like interface. You also have the ability to save and mute topics. This works best on the mobile devices.

You and your kids have the option to send the online editors (which you can see at the top of the page) your own suggestions for breaking news. A nice feature that encourages student reporting and discussions about what topics are most important. Which stories should we save? Which should be muted? Why? What on-going stories should be listed? Why? What should the synopsis say? There is a “Whoa” button beside each story that helps create a kind of app-wide hotness number that is used to create a list of stories that is creating the most buzz. The Whoa list can help in this type of conversation.

I like the app just for me but I also think it would be perfect for social studies classrooms – especially as we work to find ways to connect our content with contemporary events. The map feature lends itself to conversations about bias and a sense of place. Why, for example, are most Ebola stories on Breaking News based in Africa? There are obvious answers to that sort of question and answers that may lie buried a bit deeper. Writing prompts. Basic map skills.

There seems to be all kinds of things this tool could help you with.

(The group that runs Breaking News has offices in Seattle, New York, and London. Their Twitter account @breakingnews was launched by Michael Van Poppel in 2007, and the MSNBC Interactive Network took over the handle in a deal with Van Poppel’s BNO News in 2009. Over the next couple years, a small team inside MSNBC Interactive expanded real-time coverage to, mobile apps and new social channels. The team grew into a standalone startup called Breaking News, which was part of NBC’s acquisition of MSNBC Interactive in 2012. Today, Breaking News is part of the NBC News Digital Network.)

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