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Endangering News Broadcast

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The name and picture of a hostage currently being held by terrorists who watch the news. Great going.

Thornberg: The people have the right to know everything about everybody. You got in the way of that.
Holly: Listen, buster, you endangered my children. And you didn't do it for anything as noble as the people. The only time you see the people is when you look down to see what you're stepping on.

The news media is an important source of information for the general public about crises foreign and domestic. Unfortunately, the bad guys happen to be members of the general public, and at times, the media can give them important information that the rest of us would rather they not know. Maybe it was the name of a potential hostage that the antagonists can use. Perhaps a rescue attempt was spoiled by the news. Maybe it's an important MacGuffin that will come in handy. In any case, things just got a lot harder for the protagonists. This is a common tactic of the Immoral Journalist.

Despite the above, this trope does not apply to villains only. It applies in any case where someone gains and acts on information gained from watching or reading public news, blogs, etc.

Will often lead to a Broken Masquerade if a Masquerade was involved.

Related to Unwitting Instigator of Doom, Learned from the News, and If It Bleeds, It Leads. See also Coincidental Broadcast, Loose Lips, Taught by Television, and Saying Too Much. Not to be confused with Is This Thing Still On? and Engineered Public Confession when the very guy holding his own secrets accidentally says it publicly. This may overlap with Social Media Is Bad when the broadcaster uses social media rather than more traditional media outlets.

Contrast Information Wants to Be Free when broadcasting secrets is a good thing.


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    Comic Books 
  • One Superman storyline (during his "electric" phase) has Metallo gleaning information about how to defeat him from a news program in which Jimmy Olsen and Professor Hamilton analyze Superman's new power set in great detail.
  • Lucky Luke: Parodied in "The Daily Star". Luke is trying to sneak around the back of the saloon to ambush the bad guys and tells Horace as much. Horace then sells the latest edition of the Daily Star revealing Luke's plan, a copy of which is bought and read by the bad guys. Luke's ambush fails, he starts angrily telling off Horace... before telling him that his plan failed, so he's going to try from the front this time. Horace prints another run, the bad guys move into position... and Luke sneaks up on them from behind. The sheriff is later confused that Luke didn't do as the paper claimed he did.
  • A one-shot story of The Spirit has the Spirit helping a young woman who is being chased by gangsters... and the gangsters constantly finding them wherever they go, nearly killing them repeatedly. It turns out that the woman is an Intrepid Reporter, and her constant "dramatic narration" (which is driving Spirit nuts as it is) is being picked up by a Hidden Wire on her person and broadcasted live on the radio for everybody in town (including the gangsters) to hear.
  • Robin (1993): Tim spots a criminal who has disguised himself as a pregnant female hostage and simply walked out of a hostage situation pretending to be the first hostage let go on a news broadcast while he's grounded. A quick call to Batman sees the crook caught and handed back into police custody right after he slips out of sight.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: In one flashback arc, Chromedome and Prowl's murder investigation is complicated when the news gets ahold of their preliminary reports and blabs about all their findings. This was intentionally invoked by Chromedome and Prowl's superiors. The murders were part of the Senate's plans to ingratiate themselves with the Decepticons; the cops were never supposed to solve the case, merely 'discover' that the Decepticons weren't responsible, allowing the Senate to spin the situation as them being unbiased and proving the Decepticons' innocence.

    Fan Works 
  • In The X-Files fanfic "Bodhisattva," Mulder is chucked in prison as the prime suspect for the bomb mailed to Assistant Director Skinner. A Federal agent in Federal prison, his only hope is that no one identifies him... Guess whose face is plastered all over the news?
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fic Spots Off, Alya accidentally films Ladybug transforming back into Marinette during a livestream, and, despite Alya deleting the video and attempting to contain the damage, the footage ends up on YouTube, getting tens of thousands of views in a few hours. By the following morning, Marinette's name, her parents' names, and the name of her school are on the TV news and the Dupain-Cheng bakery is surrounded by news reporters, none of whom seem particularly concerned about making a teenager and her family a target for Hawkmoth.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Die Hard, a TV reporter goes to John McClane's house and talks to his children. Hans Gruber sees that the children match the photos in Holly's office, and realized that Holly was John's wife, giving him a valuable hostage. Needless to say, Holly decks him the moment they meet in person.
  • In Die Hard 2, the same Jerkass Glory Hound reporter from the first film (who is trapped on one of the planes alongside John's wife) manages to broadcast the fact that there is a terrorist threat (which the Dulles authorities have managed to keep quiet about so far) on national television (purely for personal glory — by the time Holly knocks him out with a taser, he's halfway into delivering a speech through the phone to his TV station that if this is his final broadcast, that he hopes he'll be remembered as a hero or something), leading to a massive riot at the airport which gridlocks the police's mobilization and forces John to face the escaping terrorists on his own. It also nearly panics the plane's passengers, who are also watching a TV broadcast.
  • White House Down. The media shows the video of the terrorists that Emily filmed, and also give her name. When the terrorists find out, they're pissed, but it doesn't become relevant until later when they find out that she's the daughter of the man causing them trouble.
  • Speed. Terrorist Payne uses the news networks to monitor the police activities near the bus on which he has planted a bomb. Jack Traven, the officer on the bus, is only able to escape the news helicopters by getting the bus to an airport, which has restricted airspace. However it later turns out that Payne has a camera inside the bus, so the reporters didn't actually make the situation worse.
  • Subverted in Man of Steel: Not only does Lois Lane not run a story revealing the identity of Superman, she refuses to give the information when ordered.
  • Subverted in Argo. A newspaper finds out about the six US Embassy employees hiding out in the Canadian ambassador's house in Tehran, but the US government convinces them to sit on the story so the Iranians don't find out.
  • The Kennedy Administration in Thirteen Days do their best to defy the trope at first when they get photographic evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba so that they don't tip off the Soviets to the fact that they know, even if it means keeping their press secretary in the dark and keeping up the President's previously-scheduled travel which would take him out of Washington. Eventually, though, The New York Times gets a hold of the story and intends to publish it (sitting on the Bay of Pigs the year prior caught them flak); the editor eventually relents and agrees to hold off on publishing when JFK points out that holding off would save lives (including their own), thus defying the trope.
  • The opening shoot-out of S.W.A.T. (2003) almost invokes this: at one point a TV cameramen climb a fence behind the LAPD command post and get a shot of their security camera feed, which the robbers holding hostages inside the bank then see on the news coverage. Lieutenant Velasquez sees what's going on and scrambles to get officers to block the TV guy's camera, but it's unclear whether any important information was transmitted.
    Gunman: Hey! I'm on TV!
  • In the sci-fi movie Runaway, a news cameraman follows Ramsay into a house with a homicidal gun-wielding robot endangering a baby. His presence hinders Ramsay's actions greatly until he stupidly gets himself shot by the robot.
    • Earlier Ramsey points out that the robot can pick up their live broadcast transmission.
  • In John Q., a news station that managed to broadcast footage of what was going on in the emergency room where everyone was taken hostage allowed John to see some SWAT officers sneaking in to try to take him down, which enabled him to beat them.
  • Done accidentally in SHAZAM!. When Shazam catches a bus that he caused to fall off a freeway overpass, a TV news crew films him arguing with Freddy, another boy in the foster home, about how he's using his powers for a quick buck instead of being a real hero. Shortly after Freddy storms off, Dr. Sivana arrives and mercilessly beats Shazam, who's able to get away when he turns back into Billy inside the mall they smash into and blends into the panicked crowd. When Sivana scans the crowd, he sees Freddy looking for Billy as the news clip shows Freddy arguing with Shazam.
    • The same broadcast enables Mary to discover Billy's identity, piecing Shazam's interaction with Freddy together with other clues.

  • A plot point in Saving Lily. Several kids, their families, and their teacher are raising money to buy an elephant from a cruel circus owner so they can deliver her to an elephant shelter. Lily's owner agrees to the deal if there is no outside publicity about it. The day before the deal happens, two well-meaning kids (not well acquainted with the main kids) get the local newspaper to publish an article about the efforts, which reaches the attention of the circus man. He cancels the deal but is convinced to uncancel it because all the money had been raised without media help and because canceling the deal means they're free to raise as much publicity as they want about it.
  • Torajiro Sato is a broken man at the end of Debt of Honor. And then he notices a copy of USA Today, where the headline is showing that the majority of the US government is gathering at Capitol Hill to swear Jack in as vice president, and is inspired to take a course of action that will let him go out with a bang rather than a whimper.
  • Sherlock Holmes: In "The Greek Interpreter", a man named Melas reports to Mycroft Holmes that he was coerced by a group of thugs into helping them deal with a kidnapped man named Kratides who only spoke Greek. Mycroft decides that the simplest way to find information on the incident is to put the details Melas gave him into a newspaper advert and ask any members of the public with further information to come forward - which also clues the villains into the fact that Melas has betrayed them.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Vento of the Front casts a spell that causes anyone who bears ill will toward her to be knocked unconscious, no matter where they are in the world. Naturally, when the media reports on the strange woman dressed in scantily yellow robes and blowing holes in buildings to the public, they only succeed in knocking out a vast majority of the population until the spell ends, since the majority of viewers thought "that lady is a jerk" or "that lady has to be stopped" or something similar.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Averted in the The Adventures of Superman episode "The Defeat of Superman". Clark comments on how glad he is that Lois didn't say anything about Kryptonite in her latest article. Lois and Jimmy quickly assure him that their lips are sealed.
  • Avoided in an episode of Dragnet. Joe Friday sweet-talks some reporters into holding off on running the story for about a day so his investigation isn't adversely affected.
  • In the iCarly episode, "iSam's Mom", when Freddie catches a criminal called the Shadow Hammer on video with special sunglasses that record video, one of the girls who lives in Freddie's apartment building reveals where he lives despite Freddie's insistence not to say so.
  • On an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, two detectives are in a bar and the news on TV gives away a piece of information about a crime that the detectives were withholding to help them weed out false confessions.
  • Defied in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Prometheus". A TV station gets a hold of information about the stargate program, although they think that "Prometheus" is a nuclear fusion research project. The president personally kills the story in exchange for a promise that when the program eventually goes public, the station gets an exclusive.
  • Criminal Minds: In "Minimal Loss", Prentiss and Reid are investigating a cultist sect undercover as social workers when a dumbass Attorney General, looking to score political brownie points, orders state troopers and SWAT to raid the cult's farm while they're still inside. When the BAU takes charge of the siege and tell the AG, in no uncertain terms, to blow, he instead heads to the reporters to inform them that he is coordinating intimately with the FBI on this matter and leaks that they already have an undercover agent in place, blowing Prentiss' cover and nearly Reid's as well.
  • In an episode of Without a Trace, the missing person of the week is in the Witness Protection Program, but in a massive failure of interagency communication, the FBI doesn't learn that until they've sent his picture and (new) identity out to the media, who dutifully reported it in the hope of finding him. The rest of the episode is devoted to dealing with the fallout from outing the guy, and they end up having to fake his death to get him out of harm's way again.
  • The Discovery TV mini-series Manhunt: Unabomber (which dramatizes the FBI's manhunt for Theodore Kaczynski) tosses an enormous complication on the investigation after the FBI is able to single out that Kaczynski is the most probable suspect and start to surveil his home and mobilize agents covertly to raid it when the time is right and they have iron-clad proof. What was meant to be a multi-month operation turns into a mad dash to find enough evidence to present to the judge and strike within 24 hours when CBS catches wind of what is going on and the Smug Snake producer tells the director that he will only hold the story for that much time (even after the director insists that if Kaczynski is the Unabomber, then the broadcast may end up causing a bloodbath).
  • Bosch: While Bosch is working undercover, a news story breaks about his alleged misconduct. When the criminals see his face in the news, his cover is blown and he barely escapes with his life.
  • Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye: Played with in "The Leak". The team comes to suspect that the media was involved in the leak. They track the problem to a reporter named Joe Harding, who insists they can't blame him because he didn't release the information before the raid happened. However, it turns out that one of the interns at the paper is a terrorist sympathizer, leading Sue to chew Joe out about the importance of confidentiality.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu T.O.M.E. supplement Pursuit to Kadath. After the Big Bad steals money from a bank, a newspaper story reveals that some of the money is new currency with consecutive serial numbers, and thus easily identified and traced. The villain reads the newspaper and discards the bills.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout: New Vegas: A few of the news broadcasts made by Mr New Vegas mention military information about the NCR, that could easily be picked up by Caesar's Legion and put soldier's lives at risk. Justified by the fact that Mr New Vegas is an A.I. created by Mr House - who doesn't trust the NCR and ultimately plans to drive them out of the region.
  • Mass Effect 3. The Alliance News Network Twitter updates on the Reaper invasion of Earth, which included details on where civilians were able to get military protection so they could escape Earth. Emily Wong realized too late that the Reapers had been reading the tweets to find out where the evacuation point was so they could attack it.
  • SWAT 4: In the St. Michael's Medical Center mission, a news station broadcasts footage of your team entering the hospital. Tactical Operations Command manages to cut the cable connection to the hospital, but not before the terrorists are made aware of your entry.
  • Sonic Adventure 2: When Eggman can't find the yellow Chaos Emerald, Rouge hands him a newspaper revealing that Tails was awarded it after saving Station Square during his last fight against Eggman.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Superman: The Animated Series: In "Superman's Pal", Angela Chen makes the friendship between Superman and Jimmy Olsen public, thereby causing one of Metallo's agents to target Jimmy. He lampshades it when begging her to recant.
    Jimmy: You gotta take back that story. I was almost killed last night!
  • In The Zeta Project, Zeta is a rogue robot on the run and is accompanied by Rosalie Rowan, a runaway from a foster home. In one episode, Ro ends up on a talk show where people who have been separated from their families have their relatives tracked down for a reunion. Ro is initially scared because having her face and name broadcast live on the air would put her and Zeta at risk of being traced and subsequently arrested by the NSA.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) plays with this from time to time, not so much information being "accidentally" revealed, but rather, if Shredder or Krang happen to be watching Channel 6's newsfeed, and decide whatever is being reported on could work to their advantage. For example, in "Green With Jealousy", the Technodrome (now inside a volcano) experiences a severe power shortage, Bebop and Rocksteady watch Channel 6 report a story on a nuclear-powered submarine, inspiring Krang to intercept it and use its fuel to supply power to the Technodrome.
  • In Dan Vs. episode "Dan VS the Superhero", Dan becomes the supervillain Dr. Jerk and learns of his superhero enemy's only weakness in a televised interview.
  • Lastman: Criminals who took hostages learn from journalists on the phone that the police is about to strike them. That show was made right after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, see Real Life below.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love": After the police surround Snake's hideout when he takes Homer and Gloria hostage, Chief Wiggum proves why you shouldn't talk to the press.
      Kent Brockman: We're in minute two of this stand-off. What's the situation, Chief?
      Wiggum: Well, we have an officer sneakin' around the house, Kent. So unless they have a television in there, or can hear my loud talking—
      [a gunshot is heard. Officer Eddie runs away from the hideout, holding his arm in pain]
      Eddie: Ow! Ow! Ow!
      Wiggum: Well, I guess that answers that, doesn't it?
    • In one episode where Marge was in a hostage situation, the criminal later broke out of jail to go after her... with a newspaper he was holding giving the address of the Simpson home and the security code for their alarm.
  • One of the first animated Superman cartoons by Fleischer Studios is "The Mechanical Monsters," which are flying robots built by a Mad Scientist to smash, rob then fly away. A newspaper headline in The Daily Planet details a trove of jewelry on display in Metropolis. Guess where the Mad Scientist sends one of his robots?
  • On an episode of WordGirl, the Butcher finds out about a necklace of beef jerky with mystical abilities (which he then tries to steal) from the news.
  • At the start of Exo Squad, when the Exo Fleet begins a campaign against the pirate clans, a reporter comes onto the bridge and begins broadcasting there, with the possibility of accidentally sending out all sorts of info to the pirates. The second that Admiral Winfield notices them he throws them off the bridge.
  • Inverted in one episode of Pelswick where Pelswick was running a pirate radio station with the FCC searching for it. When the FCC found Goon, he mentioned over the radio that the FCC was coming for Pelswick before mentioning he was on his way back to Pelswick's house where the station was, much to Pelswick's dismay.

    Real Life 
  • In The American Civil War, generals got a lot of use out of the local papers, which often reported troop movements in the area. Robert E. Lee was particularly fond of the Northern papers during his Maryland and Pennsylvania campaigns. Other generals were less than happy with their more loose-tongued soldiers getting squeezed for valuable intel, like William Sherman:
    General Sherman: If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast.
  • From World War II:
    • On the morning of April 9th, 1940, while German troops were entering Norway, the king, government, and parliament evacuated Oslo, taking the first train north. The broadcasting company, still free at the time, broadcast: "The government and king have evacuated to Hamar..." Whoops! The Germans were in hot pursuit within two hours. (Fortunately, they didn't catch up.)
    • In the war in the Pacific, Australian radio reported that the Japanese had landed on a particular island. As the only way they could have known that information was because a Coastwatcher was on the island, the Japanese immediately began searching for him.
  • The massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany was a tragic example. The hostage-takers were watching the news which was covering the rescue plans and attempts in depth (case in point: they watched plainclothes police take position on the roof right above them and their balcony live). By using the news to know when and where they were going to make a rescue attempt they managed to stay ahead enough that the confrontation turned into what it's known as today: The Munich Massacre.
  • In the case of California serial killer Ricard Ramirez, known in the media as the "Night Stalker," the mayor held a televised news conference that indicated that the key components of the investigation were ballistics evidence and footprints found at the crime scenes. This gave Ramirez the opportunity to dispose of his weapons and shoes.
  • During the Falklands War in 1982, the BBC was accused of giving away too much information in its news coverage. It was pointed out that the Argentinean Embassy in London, which had not been closed down or otherwise ordered to leave, was monitoring news channels in Britain and sending digests of useful news home. This was due to technology having advanced faster than the existing guidelines for reporting from war zones could be modified, as the old rules were more suited to the 1950s and an era before satellite communications or even widespread use of TV.
  • Journalist Geraldo Rivera, while traveling with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq, began to disclose an upcoming operation during a Fox News broadcast, even going so far as to draw a map in the sand for his audience. The military immediately issued a firm denunciation of his actions, saying it put the operation at risk, and nearly expelled Rivera from Iraq.
    • Parodied by The Daily Show, which saw this as Rivera getting overexcited about establishing his Intrepid Reporter credentials.
      Stephen Colbert: He’s the only reporter out here who's got the cojones to walk it like he talks it! He can’t be constrained by concern for the safety and security of men who have invited him to join them at great risk to both themselves and their military objective! If he gets everybody killed, so be it. He’s not gonna pussy out.
  • Prince Harry of The British Royal Family has had a few issues trying to serve in the military because of this. Particularly, a tour of duty as a foot soldier in 2008 had to be called off because, despite a media blackout to try and keep his presence in-country a secret from the Taliban, Australian news sources ignored the blackout and reported that he was there. In 2012 he switched to flying attack helicopters, which reduced the danger somewhat (the Taliban did announce they would be looking to capture and kill him, but since attack helicopters are really bad news for enemy soldiers on the ground, they wouldn't have the luxury of focusing on which one was piloted by British royalty), and, though nothing came of it, news sources still went out of their way to report exactly which base he would be flying from, exactly where in Afghanistan that base was, and exactly how long he would be in-country.
  • The infamous Rizal Park hostage-taking incident of 2010, where an ex-cop took a tourist bus hostage in the middle of the aforementioned park. While the incident ensued, the perpetrator was watching the news, which covered everything happening outside the bus. Meaning he knew the police's every move but they didn't know his, as he covered all the windows of the bus.
  • In Israel in 2013, before it was officially revealed on the media who the ‘famous singer’ who slept with underage girls was, one reporter accidentally mentioned his name (Eyal Golan) and quickly apologised—‘, uh, sorry...’ While it wasn’t a particularly well-guarded secret before, this made it pretty much official and made any attempts to preserve his anonymity laughable. The slip of the tongue and the awkward apology soon turned memetic, replacing the slip with other things one should not be saying, e.g. ‘Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice... er, uh, sorry...
  • During the last stand of the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in France, news channels confirmed that one of the employees of the factory where the terrorists hid was still in there after police besieged the factory. Fortunately, the terrorists chose to ignore him, being concerned only about how to resist as long as possible.


Video Example(s):


Dangerous News

A news reporter goes to John McClane's house and talks to his children. Hans Gruber sees Holly's reaction, lifts the photograph in her office, and realizes that Holly is John's wife, giving him a valuable hostage.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / EndangeringNewsBroadcast

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