Cable news’ feeding frenzy over Malaysian airliner hits new highs

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

When Malaysian Flight 370 disappeared several weeks ago, it was the beginning of a cable news feeding frenzy of enormous proportions.

I don’t mind a little aggressive reporting. I’ve done it myself back in my days with the Houston Chronicle, but cable news has it down to a science.

For weeks they speculated about what happened to the plane, regurgitating all kinds of possibilities. Cable news personalities became instant experts on what could have brought the Boeing 777 down, if it was brought down.

Then came the hired experts who speculated even more, as the days went on, and the search failed to turn up even a lone seat cushion.

My favorite hype example was generated by Wolf Blitzer at CNN. He was loaded for bear as he interviewed one of the pilots participating in the search.

Blitzer has been known to get his dander up as he attempts to blow something out of proportion. In this case, though, I could see that he was struggling to make news where there was none.

He was grasping for questions and then came out with a doozie.

“What do you think happened to Flight 370?” he asked.

The pilot was nice enough to give him a polite “I don’t know.”

What was he going to say, Wolf? The guy is flying four hours to the search site, searching for two hours and then flying four hours back to base. I think he has his hands full with that searching task stuff.

“Wolf, I think that a UFO picked up the entire bunch, and they are now in another galaxy on a planet inhabited by little green people with one eye.”

That would have been a great answer.

CNN’s favorite words while covering the disappearance have been “speculation” and “vanishing.” They must have repeated “speculation” hundreds of times, as they warned against it while actually doing it.
I am not picking on CNN. Fox and MSNBC also are guilty, as well as the tabloids.

The story itself begs for this type of coverage. A mega story that generates a lot of air time but not much new for weeks gets this type of treatment from the majority of the media. We have seen it before and will see it again.

Why is the news business obsessed? It’s a terrifying story with lots of drama until it is resolved. Then there is more drama as the relatives start weeping on camera.

They cannot weep in private because dozens of cameras follow their every move.

Fox’s experts were betting that the plane was hijacked to Iran. The plane then could be used as a way to deliver a nuclear weapon and crash it into a major U.S. city. But, the expert said that he didn’t want to “speculate.”

“Someone wanted that airplane. You’re not going to fly into the Indian Ocean to crash it,” the expert speculated.

I wanted to hear some interesting UFO speculation, but either I missed it, or the experts would not venture that far. The hijacking to Iran was far enough.

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, the ultimate boss at Fox, took to his twitter to also speculate on the whereabouts of the plane, noting that it has been “effectively hidden” and may have been stashed away in “Northern Pakistan, like Bin Laden.”

I could be a great cable news expert and would do it for less than those spewing out this junk. I could make stuff up that is so entertaining and outrageous that none of the other experts would come even close to it.

Because I still remember Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi spokesman when NATO (mostly U.S. troops) attacked that country.

Nobody could pick stuff out of thin air and pretend that it was factual information better than Baghdad Bob. He would venture into the UFO theory with a perfectly out-of-this world explanation, even as workers behind him were recovering the plane’s wreckage.

Baghdad Bob on NATO troops in Iraq: “I can say, and I am responsible for what I am saying, that they have started to commit suicide under the walls of Baghdad. We will encourage them to commit more suicides quickly.”

Maybe BB would not be such a good expert. But, he probably would do it for free, just to get on the air.

Time to switch channels and take time out from all this bad news.

“Ancient Aliens” on the History Channel. That’s better.