When I turned off my computer late last night, it was only a fairly short while after the Australians had announced they were speeding to look at some debris located by satellite many many miles off their southwestern coast (and I had written about it). It was clear it would take a long time for search planes to arrive, and probably much much longer to locate the debris, if they ever did.
Understandably, the cable news networks were talking about it nonstop when I went to bed, and much of what they were saying was already repetitive: speculation, facts about how debris floats, the weather in the area, and repeats of many of the things we’ve already heard about Flight 370 and its history.
Today there is no new news of any import whatsoever. This is hardly unexpected, of course. But the coverage continues in exactly the same course, and appears to have gone on this way without a pause. I cannot imagine that much has been said in all that time that’s worth saying more than once.
Why has this news been fastened on, without new content? Obviously interest in the plane is high, but it still doesn’t explain the nonstop coverage of what is essentially only a possibility of a discovery at this point. Some people speculate it’s some sort of cover so we don’t attend to other news, and while that’s certainly possible, that’s not my leading theory. My leading theory is that mysteries and disasters sell, and that this is a story about a mystery within a disaster.
Much of the other news of the day—be it Obamacare (a particular obsession of mine), the Crimea takeover and Putin’s anschluss-type designs on other former Soviet satellites, Iran and its nuclear ambitions, or any other of several large stories both worldwide and domestic, are undoubtedly bigger and more important in any objective sense. But once they are covered they are covered, until something new happens. Each news outlet (all of them liberal except Fox) covers each story with whatever spin they have decided best serves its cause: Obamacare not so bad, Putin not so powerful (and Romney’s warnings unmentioned), Iran not so evil, and on and on and on in that vein. All very predictable in terms of the story and the angle of approach for the MSM, at least until the next event, which will be incorporated into the story with the same slant.
The Flight 370 saga is different. It’s a true mystery, at least so far. It’s international in scope. It’s less political, at least so far. Although it directly affects fewer than 300 people and their families, that’s a lot of people and we all can identify because nearly all of us fly in planes. That, and its aspect of Twilight-Zoneish unknown, grab people in a very different, and very visceral, way compared to a news story of the more conventional type.
So I understand intense coverage of the event and its aftermath; after all, I’ve done it myself, and plan to update as there is breaking news. But still, the last fourteen hours or so have been so over-the-top on this one possibility that it seems odd, to say the least. The cable news networks do this, though; they fasten on a story (often a disaster of some sort) and don’t let go of it. Then when it’s over, it’s over. My guess is that their market research tells them this drives ratings.