Malaysia flight media coverage misguided

Malyasia flight media coverage misguided (credit: Shijie Rao/) Malyasia flight media coverage misguided (credit: Shijie Rao/)
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It’s almost been a month since the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was declared lost, and almost two weeks since it was officially declared to have crashed in the South Indian Ocean.
As numerous planes scour the seas for any sign of wreckage or debris, we — the onlookers — have followed the news story from the start. We have seen the countless theories surrounding the flight, including everything from the pilot and his co-pilot, stolen passports, hijackings, and the Illuminati.

It is important to follow current events, yes. They make us well-informed citizens and enable us to participate in a public dialogue with our friends, professors, and whomever else we meet. But there comes a point when we are overloaded with information from the press. The press has reached maximum capacity when it comes to Flight 370.

In the past month, I have received more than 10 mobile pings that have said, “Potential debris spotted in Indian (or South China Sea) Ocean” or some other variant. In fact, according to The Huffington Post, CNN reporter Martin Savidge has spent the past month or so in a flight simulator testing Flight 370 theories, inspiring the Twitter trending hashtag #freemartinsavidge.

Despite the extensive media coverage, there have been few significant developments in the past month regarding the flight. These developments have included, first, that the flight had disappeared; second, that it has been declared lost in an area in the South Indian Ocean using satellite data, complex calculations, and the Doppler effect; and last, that there have been possible debris sightings close to the area where the plane is believed to have passed through.

But as each day passes without confirmed sighting of the wreckage, the media — CNN in particular because of its wide, expansive coverage — has resorted to excruciatingly aggravating extrapolation. In fact, one headline on CNN even read “Was Flight 370 a Zombie Plane?” There have been theories — none of which are substantiated in any way — regarding terror plots, hijackings, and a secret message from the plane before it vanished. Not only is CNN covering the story this way, but the other “Big Two” — Fox and NBC — have joined in, perhaps in an effort to boost television ratings in an era where news is more mobile and Internet-based.

I’m not saying that the CNN or news outlets should not be covering Flight 370. In fact, there are some fascinating stories behind it. For example, Malaysia’s public relations and general management of the flight’s disappearance have been criticized internationally. Therein lies the potential for a story with concrete facts and credible sources, one that would not be an extrapolation.

However, on the other side of the TV are viewers obsessed with finding this flight. Something within our human subconscious is drawn to such tragedies, and the surrealism of a plane crash contributes to our fascination. Flights, which used to be considered a luxury, are now considered to be essential. Air travel has connected the world by making it so much easier to traverse.

As a result of this accessibility, there is a sense of security, ease, and comfort, even, to be traveling in a metal bird thousands of miles above the ground. Then, an incident like Flight 370 comes along and disrupts our confidence in such a sense. As a result, we are compelled to understand what went wrong, and how Flight 370 differed from the millions of others.

That being said, there are several issues with the way the “Big Three” — CNN, NBC, and Fox — have been capitalizing on this innate public interest in the doomed flight. The outlets, by throwing speculations and extrapolations, have left us confused and lead us to question their authority and integrity on such relatable, high-profile incidents.