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Mediaite's Rothman: CNN Swaps Credibility for Ratings on Flight 370

By Aaron Stern   |   Tuesday, 18 Mar 2014 06:59 PM

CNN has earned huge ratings – and blistering reviews – for its virtually nonstop, continuing coverage of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

“They're absolutely overdoing it,” Noah Rothman, editor and writer for Mediaite, told
“The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV. “It's very clear, they have been doing very well in the ratings but it's at the expense of the credibility of the news network.”

The New York Times is just one of many outlets to question the cable network’s decision to prioritize – to the point of sensationalism, say some – the ongoing search for the missing airliner above all other news in recent days. CNN anchors have covered every bit of minutia, some of it breaking, others days old, over and over again – and has had to correct its reports more than once, said Rothman.

CNN has struggled to define itself against competitors like Fox News and MSNBC, so the uptick in ratings has been welcomed. But it may prove costly down the road, Rothman says.

“They're doing wildly well in the ratings but then the Times went out for some executives to speak with them and no executive would go on the record to defend their coverage.

"They all defended the coverage, but it was all anonymous quotes,” Rothman said.

“They're doing wildly better than their competitors in this situation. They're reaping some real ratings rewards, which [the network] has lacked significantly for some time, so they're trying to make up some revenue, which they really badly need. But at what cost?”

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That cost, says Rothman, may be a reputation of credibility. One of the more embarrassing moments came when anchor Don Lemon said on-air that it might be time to consider supernatural causes for the disappearance of the Boeing 777.

CNN isn’t the only news outlet that has gone overboard in its coverage of the deepening mystery.

“Frankly, Fox [News] has been doing too much of it, too. Everybody's been doing too much of it,” Rothman said. “There's nothing to report. So if anybody's doing more than a passing glance at the story on an hourly basis at most, it's too much coverage and Fox is right behind it with a significant amount of coverage.”

One major network that hasn’t pivoted to cover MH370’s disappearance is MSNBC.

“[The network that] hasn't done a whole lot of reporting on this of the three major networks has been MSNBC, and that's not really a compliment,” Rothman said.

“It's largely because MSNBC can't be moved from the script. The script is ‘Republicans are terrible and the death penalty is awful, and, by the way, homelessness,’ and they can't be maneuvered from that position.”

The general rush to capitalize on the ongoing search for the jet airliner and all those on board should embarrass the news media, Rothman said.

“Everybody has been guilty of feeding too much into this frenzy because it's rewarded in the ratings and it's just, frankly, a lack of self-control,” he said.

“This is not the business you're supposed to be in.”

See the “Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.                               

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CNN has earned huge ratings – and blistering reviews – for its virtually nonstop, continuing coverage of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

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