It’s a dark day when Richard Quest becomes the lone voice of reason. But that’s exactly what’s happened on CNN, as the “Cable Speculation Network” tried to take advantage of the tragic disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 to boost ratings and propel ad sales.
After a whirlwind week, the search dragged on for a second week without any significant developments. Yet CNN repeatedly touted the old news, and the lack of any new news, as “Breaking News” every time it returned from a commercial break. Unless the network considered the lack of new developments to be breaking news, this may have been a new low for television journalism.
Fortunately, by the third week, they had downgraded it to a “Developing Story” but quickly returned to “Breaking News” as they repeated every new scrap of speculation ad nauseam. And now, as we inch towards the end of the sixth week, CNN has largely returned to its “crisis of the moment” coverage strategy, though this story retains a good chunk of that mix.
I didn’t mind the parade of “experts,” and I’m sure they were all paid handsomely for their expertise and rampant speculation. What I did mind was the embarrassing ignorance of the hosts. And I say “host” instead of “anchor” because guys like Don Lemon are better suited to emcee a gameshow than a news program. How could supposedly informed, educated journalists know so little about things like aeronautics, investigations, sonar, and the ocean?
As much as it pains me to say, the one bright spot in all of this CNN nonsense has been Richard Quest. He’s introduced as CNN’s aviation correspondent, though I thought he covered the celebrity/entertainment beat. But credit to him for repeatedly arguing for some journalistic integrity as his colleagues and fellow pundits consistently delved into pure speculation and downright rumor-mongering.
It also troubled me that much of this speculation was based on ignorance and incorrect or incomplete information. Even more troubling is that the reason I knew these theories were hopelessly flawed is because I had been watching CNN. You see, if the people on CNN actually watched CNN, and listened to the genuine experts, they wouldn’t look like such idiots. Instead, with every new anchor, almost with every return from a commercial break, it seemed as if the ridiculous, ill-informed speculation would start all over again. Theories debunked at the top of the hour are treated like breaking news at the bottom of the hour. I guess they assume no one watches for more than a few minutes a day.
And when did 24-hour cable news programming become a running advice column? Lacking anything even remotely newsworthy to report, CNN often resorted to taking viewer questions via Twitter and asking its paid pundits to answer them, however ridiculous – or already covered, time and time again. Why not report all the other news happening in the world instead of wasting time answering questions that viewers could easily get the answers to if they read or watched the actual news?