Monday, March 24, 2014

CNN's Malaysia flight 370 coverage proves again it's all about money.

This isn't the first time for CNN. It's not the first time the news network has tried to milk a story for all it's worth whether it was Sandy Hook or the Boston Marathon bombing and what it's worth for CNN at the moment is ratings, not facts, not information, not journalism, but money in the form of ratings.

For CNN, the Malaysia flight 370 story is another tragedy that's being treated as a cash cow they are determined to milk.

This is not to say that CNN didnt assemble an impressive collection of well informed experts to analyze what slim data was known and to give their opinions. But three weeks later CNN is still trying to figure out ways to fill almost all their air time with Malaysia Flight 370, and it shows.

When it became clear more than three weeks ago that coverage of the missing Malaysia flight had doubled CNN's normal ( and low) ratings,(which often happens with live events)  management made a business decision to go all Malaysia all the time and they've been doing  it ever since. And in the process, becoming the news network who cried "Breaking News" when 90% of the time there wasn't any.

When there has been nothing new to report, CNN continuously  resorts to rehashing and repackaging old news, even weeks old news,  and presenting it as "Breaking News" to keep viewers watching.

Like Monday's "Breaking News. At 12,000 feet a plane is still visible on radar".

That isnt Breaking News. That is what used to be called a factoid. Note that it wasn't even specifically about 370,  just a general piece of information that at 12,000 feet any plane is still visible on radar. This is what was presented as "Breaking News".

Another item was "Breaking News: Does flight 370 search lack imagination?"

What matters about all this is once again, the pandering and low level of competence that exists in journalism on a daily basis and especially TV journalism and how it's become impossible to count on these people to do their jobs and do it well especially during any time of real crisis,usually more interested in playing to the audience than in the truth.

Speaking of playing to the audience, the most obnoxious thing CNN does is every hour turn the tragedy into a game show with  "the announcement that in 15 minutes we'll be answering  your Twitter questions from you our audience".  The questions are usually ignorant or trivial or nonsensical but treated as "really interesting" and worth discussing when they aren't. Nothing like audience participation to solve an air disaster.

The ultimate truth of what the coverage is really all about came on Monday after a news conference  by the Malaysian prime minister stating that based on new information there was certainty that the plane had gone down in the Indian Ocean and there were no survivors.

Following that announcement, Ashley Banfield and John Berman read a statement from Malaysia airlines that  asked that the news media respect the privacy of the families. As they were reading that statement  CNN was showing still photos of a grieving, wailing Chinese woman as the camera pushed in slowly to a tight close up of her anguished face and kept repeating the shot  over and over interspersed with video footage of similar scenes showing other family members collapsing and reacting to the news, making it clear how much CNN intended on respecting the privacy of the families.

This was followed by  Banfield asking a correspondent on the scene, "Can you walk us through exactly what happened with these families today"? 

Across the bottom of the screen, as the correspondent gave details, CNN streamed a red banner that said "Screams and wails from family members". You know, just so you'd know.

It wasn't journalism, it wasn't even a perverse kind of voyeurism;  it might be categorized as   journalistic pornography or sadomasochism.  But not journalism. But it was all there for your viewing pleasure. 

Afterwards, the dishonest, even perverse attempts by CNN on keeping alive the idea that the plane might have landed safely somewhere instead of crashing into the Indian Ocean is  also all about keeping the story alive because no wreckage had yet been found.

CNN's experts have already talked about Air France flight 442 many times and  pointed out it took two years to find that wreckage.  Yet no one at the time suggested that because they hadnt found the wreckage the plane never crashed. But its what you do when your're trying to fill up time so you can charge a little more next month for a 30 second commercial.

NOTE: With all the theories about what happened, and with all of them having at least one hole or major contradiction based on the available evidence, I've offered my own theory which is based on the available evidence and for which, so far, there are no contradictory facts.

It's published as a separate peice and can be found at this link.


Anonymous said...

That absolutely makes sense. And is the most plausible explanation I've heard by FAR.

Which just underscores how well trained our media has become at avoiding the truth, and any semblance of actual thought. Disgusting.


Marc Rubin said...

"That absolutely makes sense. And is the most plausible explanation I've heard by FAR.

Which just underscores how well trained our media has become at avoiding the truth, and any semblance of actual thought. Disgusting."

I agree with both comments. I may publish my theory as a separate post in the next day or two. And yes, we are cursed with some of the most inept incompetent journalists in our history and its been that way for awhile. We can't count on them for much of anything.

The audience participation Twitter questions is about as obnoxious and unjournalistic as it gets.