Tuesday, March 18, 2014

CNN standards missing along with Malaysia flight 370.

Its no secret that CNN has been milking the missing Malaysia flight 370 story more than any other news organization. And who can blame them? Their ratings have been at a 20 year low and getting worse ( and for good reason) but since flight 370 has gone missing, they've seen their ratings almost double both for daytime and evening viewers. And that clearly has sent a signal to the executives at CNN to milk it for all its worth,  not only, by their own admission with wall to wall coverage, but also with constant rehashing of days old news, repackaged as "breaking news" and anchors asking questions so stupid some paid experts, like former chair of the NTSB Jim Francis, could barely hide his contempt, at times giving only one word answers to the more ridiculous questions of CNN anchors.

To give credit where credit is due, CNN has assembled some of the most knowledgeable and intelligent experts available from the always interesting, to the point, no nonsense Richard Quest, to former 777 pilots, accident investigators and former NSTB crash investigators and officials.

The problem, as it always is with CNN, has been with their anchors, most of them either constantly shilling for CNN's coverage as Don Lemon and Wolf Blitzer do repeatedly ( "stay tuned for our wall to wall coverage, coverage you can ONLY get here on CNN")   or asking one insipid or rehashed question after another which their guests politely try to answer as if they are worth asking ( and also because they are being paid)

Over the weekend we had the up and down voice inflections and endless emoting of Frederika Whitfield who couldn't seem to ask a question without interupting and  stepping all over the answer. She insisted on inserting days old information, possibly for the benefit of those watching who may have been in a coma and hearing about this for the first time, in the middle of a guests answer  and it seemed clear these were directions coming to her probably from some producer.

After interrupting one former 777 pilot who was making a good point so as to interject something that had nothing to do with the point the pilot was trying to make, the pilot went back to his point, then tried to add another as Whitfield  interrupted him again to go to someone else. When the pilot said he wanted to make one more point Whitefield's reply was, "Ok,  make it quick". Because, you know, the show must go on.

Taking over for Whitfield, Don Lemon anchored two hours of coverage like he was a substitute teacher for a bunch of first graders, holding up a small hobby shop replica of a Boeing 777 and pointing out how they were going to talk about every aspect of the plane,  "from the nose ( pointing to the nose) , the wings, (pointing to the wings), underneath the plane ( turning the plane and pointing underneath) and the rear" (pointing to the rear).

Then before a commercial break we were informed by Lemon just how great CNN's coverage is and how they will be covering "every angle" of this story non-stop (assume there was no pun intended).

It got even sillier when Lemon informed us the panel was now going to answer " your Twitter questions" .Lemon promised that the next hour was going to be devoted " to you, our audience". And for anyone who had any doubts CNN was turning this into a cross between a circus and a game show, Lemon actually said, " and after the break we'll be going to our "lightning round" to get to as many questions as we possible". No kidding. They did a lightning round.

Some of the questions were so stupid they defied credulity and made one wonder how CNN could actually employ producers who culled those questions to be read on the air.  Lemon tried to paint each one as "good" or "interesting". One was so stupid and convoluted that the "lightning round" expert said, " I don't really understand the question" . Lemon quickly moved to another one.

Along with rehashing old news  and asking stupid questions, there has also been CNN's pervasive abuse of "Breaking News".

Someone in the research department must have data showing people will watch longer if "Breaking News" is splashed across the bottom of the screen. Especially if they are channel hopping.   Because for CNN, "Breaking News" is everything from the fact that the plane has been missing for 12 days, to the "Breaking News" that the U.S. wants more transparancy to finding nothing on the pilot's flight simulator. They are also not above labeling news that's 3 and 4 days old as "Breaking News".

Things like,  "Breaking News. Unprecedented search underway for flight 370", which of course has been going on for 10 days.

Or: Breaking News: the capabilities of the 777" .

This showed Martin Savage in a flight simulator where it seems,  he's been glued for the last 3 days since they go to him live every hour. Hopefully they let the man get up to go to the bathroom.

But this is the level of non-journalism and pandering to which CNN has sunk  in trying to milk coverage of the missing flight and you don't need a pinging black box to find it. Especially in rehashing questions like " why are you allowed to turn off the transponder"?  That by the way, was one of the favorite Twitter questions and they are still talking about it even though it was one if the first  questions addressed and  was answered days ago ( the reason is that when the plane is on the ground, either before take off or after landing, there is no reason to clutter up an air traffic controller's screen with the plane's ID being transmitted especially at very busy airports.) But CNN still thinks this is controversial and needs to be discussed. Especially if it's a Twitter question.

CNN has managed to put together a pretty good collection of knowledgable experts to offer opinions or to shoot down opinions based on whatever the currently available data may reveal. But for anyone watching CNN,and interested in the story as so many people are, the best advice is to watch with remote control in hand so you can hit the mute button any time anyone other than a guest is talking. Which unfortunately is far too often. Skip the questions. Chris Cuomo and every other anchor at CNN takes 5 times longer to ask a question than it takes to answer it.

CNN followed up the next day by repeatedly showing footage of a distraught Chinese family member being carried out of the Malaysian briefing room while literally hundreds of cameras shot still and video footage of the scene. All for your viewing pleasure.  Giving us, as Wolf Blitzer repeatedly reminds us, " the kind of coverage only CNN can deliver!"

NOTE: CNN'sTwitter parade continues reading ridiculous Twitter questions from viewers which have absolutely no journalistic value and for the most part was answered days ago, continuing to destroy any pretense of journalism rather than continuing to use the missing flight as a cash cow.

Wolf Blitzer upheld CNN's astute standards of journalism and powers of observation when, in commenting on the possible debris found in the Indian Ocean by satellite 1500 miles off the coast of Austrailia, Blitzer told us that it was night now in Australia and reconnaisance planes would be sent in the morning to get a closer look and that Blitzer "assumes they will have a better chance of identifying what the debris might be during the day than at night". None of the experts on the set wanted to say,  "Ya think?"

No comments: