Tags: cnn | malaysia | flight | media

CNN Draws Fire Over Wall-to-Wall Coverage of Malaysia Flight Mystery

Monday, 17 Mar 2014 04:18 PM

By By Joe Battaglia

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With a fire-red breaking news graphic calling viewers' attention to presumably an important development in the case of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN anchor Don Lemon hoisted a model airplane, and tapped the nose of the plane repeatedly for added emphasis.

He then turned to a studio guest, aviation engineer Arthur Rosenberg, and said:

"We're talking about the possibility of what happened now in this cockpit. So what I want to know, the systems in this cockpit, could a passenger have gotten into this cockpit, would they've needed to get into the cockpit if they wanted to do something, finagle some sort of major mechanical or electric system? We'll talk about the engines, but let's talk about the cockpit first."

Lemon then handed over the toy, similar to one that could be found at any airport gift shop, to Rosenberg and CNN was off on yet another speculative segment in its wall-to-wall coverage of the plane's disappearance, reporting that many are calling obsessive and even cartoonish.

Of course, the Twitterverse has taken notice:







But criticism of CNN's coverage has extended beyond its use of props. There has been nearly around-the-clock speculation about what happened by the network's hosts, according to Mediaite.

CNN went as far as to offer an "exclusive" theory involving the highly unlikely scenario that the plane landed on a remote island in the Indian Ocean.

Story continues below video.



Now, other media folks are calling into question CNN's journalistic integrity.

On Monday's "Media Buzz," Fox News contributor Lauren Ashburn called media coverage of the disappearance "out of control" and "overkill," but offered pointed criticism of CNN.

"CNN is taking it to the next level and it is becoming dominant," she said. "We’re missing all other stories like the CIA spying scandal, Ukraine has been knocked off the front page."

Story continues below video.



The Malaysian plane that disappeared March 8, has been a major story around the world, but nobody has pursued the story with the zeal of CNN— even though there's rarely any new information being presented.

Fox News' "O'Reilly Factor" opened Friday's show with host Bill O'Reilly taking a jab at CNN. "As you guys may know, we don’t do much speculation here on 'The Factor,'" he said. "But other news agencies do; guessing about — guessing about — what may have happened. Wasting your time. Last night, an hour — one hour — on another network of nothing. It was amazing. So tonight, we’re going to stick with the facts."

O'Reilly then interviewed former Federal Aviation Administration official Scott Brenner, asking him, “What do we know for sure?” The answer?

"We don’t really know what happened," Brenner said.

But that hasn't stopped CNN from devoting the majority of its airtime to the "story."

According to BuzzFeed, the network devoted 256 out of 271 broadcast minutes covering Flight 370 on March 12, the same day there was a fatal building explosion in East Harlem among other worthy news topics.

Why?

Ratings, of course.

CNN, which lags behind Fox News and MSNBC in the Nielsen ratings, saw its primetime ratings go up 67 percent in the first few days of the story. Last Thursday, the network averaged 588,000 viewers for the full day Thursday, well above its average of 320,000 this year.

Even in her criticism of CNN, even Fox News' Ashburn conceded that if she wants to learn more about Flight 370, she breaks rank. "If I do want to know about [Flight 370] news I turn to CNN because it is 24/7," she said.

Frank Sesno, who worked for CNN for 18 years, defended the non-stop coverage on the network's "Reliable Sources" show. He cited CNN's brand as the place people turn to when huge mysteries like this captivates the public, and said the ratings increase that these kinds of stories usually lead to make it worth it.

Where Sesno offered warning is with the network's redundant use of the term "breaking news," abuse of which is akin to crying wolf.

"The big danger always confronting CNN — and it’s confronted CNN since CNN went on the air and started doing 24-hour news — is how loud to shout," he said. How much to do this, how much 'breaking news' is really breaking news, and how do you convey to your audience this a huge story?"

Story continues below video.



CNN has not turned a deaf ear toward the criticism. While filling in for Ashleigh Banfield in the noon hour on March 12, Chris Cuomo attempt to address concerns about the speculative nature of its Malaysia Airlines-saturated coverage, Mediaite reports.

"Often in a situation like the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the job is to have more questions than there are answers, because simply not enough is known," Cuomo said.

"So if it seems like we’re nibbling around the edges, it’s because we are."

From there, Cuomo introduced yet another segment devoid of concrete developments, according to Mediaite.

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