First what I wrote last week:
“With CNN’s ratings reportedly up some 86 percent, the only thing that doesn’t seem odd, mysterious or suspicious is the reason the news network has all but ignored 90-plus percent of the world news it regularly covers to air out-there speculation and rumors about the missing flight. Especially given that the actual amount of news to report has been essentially slim to none.”
Now let’s take a look at what TV news monitor Andrew Tyndall had to say in a Hollywood Reporter column headlined as quoted in my lead above.
“Wall-to-wall coverage, ridiculous theories: An analysis on how Jeff Zucker replaced news with the “pseudo-fictions of reality TV.”
“CNN’s decision, for all intents and purposes, to devote itself for weeks to a single story has been vindicated by increased ratings,” Tyndall writes. “Its saturation coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 reinforces the network’s image as the place to go when a sensational major story breaks. It also exemplifies the fresh definition of “news” Jeff Zucker promised when he took over CNN.”
All of that was painfully obvious, but what it says about the future of what passes for serious, non-partisan news on CNN is a more significant question. Are we destined henceforth to be subjected to wall-to-wall coverage of every sensational news event at practically the total expense of less sensational-but-arguably more important news?
“The choice to go all-in on the human tragedy of a transportation disaster is revealing,” Tyndall continues. “If the sewage-soaked cruise liner in February 2013 was a beta trial, then MH370 was the full release. There is very little politics or policy in this story; thus, CNN’s news judgment triangulates itself as distinct from the partisan, ideological worldviews of its major domestic rivals, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. CNN even distinguishes itself from its main global competitors, Al Jazeera and BBC, which place politics and policy higher on their agendas than human interest.”
Human interest being sexy car chases, shootings, kidnappings, bizarre human behavior and the like.
Not that the evening network news broadcasts took the high road, as NBC, ABC and CBS teamed for 11 straight days to go with Flight 370 as their top story.
Equally obviously there were other significant news events going down during CNN’s missing plane binge; Russia invading the Ukraine to name a huge one.
“CNN seriously undercut its reputation as the go-to place for major news by disregarding Ukraine,” Tyndall correctly states.
But as I noted last week on lowly Paul Wilson‘s behalf, what CNN was offering up nonstop wasn’t news, rather it was a cavalcade of random rumors, wild speculation and aviation experts weighing in on matters that had no real bearing on what was known.
“The second major drawback to CNN’s coverage was that there was not enough information available. So what did the network do? Too often it abandoned actual journalism — reporting events known to have happened — to engage in speculative discussion of increasingly cockamamy theories (black holes?) about what happened inside the plane,” Tyndall continues. “At their most ridiculous, these hypotheticals became almost theological: Was there a 1 percent chance a theory might prove accurate, or was it 100 percent impossible?
“Thus CNN morphed from a news channel into an imaginary-chat channel, substituting expensive boots-on-the-ground reporting from Ukraine for hypothetical bloviation by studio experts and consultants. Video journalism properly expends great energy in its search for the dramatic, the unusual, the arresting, the human moment. But at its extremes, it can cross the line into fabrication. Zucker’s CNN, in its quest to triangulate news gathering away from the political monkishness of MSNBC and the ideological-message discipline of Fox News, runs the risk of exiting the realm of journalism for the pseudo-fictions of reality TV.”
Therein lies the problem.
Is the last bastion of serious cable news about to follow in the footsteps of sister station HLN?
Remember when HLN used to be called CNN Headline News and offered an abbreviated news format for people who didn’t have time to sort through the extended reporting on CNN and just wanted the basic headlines in a half hour cast?
“However, its format has increasingly shifted to long-form tabloid, opinion-, crime-, and entertainment new-related programming,” Wikipedia correctly describes the station.
So is it to be, adios Anderson Cooper, hello Nancy Grace?
“CNN’s Don Lemon is quickly becoming the source of all of the ‘best’ theories about what happened to the missing Flight 370,” the Post writes.
“Lemon’s new tactic is to solicit any random and wild theory from his viewers and then put them to a panel of guests. He did this on Wednesday night, which led to him asking Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, whether a black hole or Bermuda Triangle could have taken the plane. Also, another Twitter follower had said the whole thing was like an episode of “Lost.”
“I know it’s preposterous,” Lemon said, before completely negating that statement by asking Schiavo, “is it preposterous, Mary?”
Schiavo had an extremely delightful answer:
“A small black hole would suck in our entire universe, so we know it’s not that. A Bermuda Triangle is often weather, and ‘Lost’ is a TV show.”