GREAT ASCENT WITH GREATER DESCENT
There has been much marvelous advancement in broadcast journalism since I came into this world. At that time, we only had a console radio in our home. When I was a toddler, we got our first black-and-white TV but we could only get reception from one local TV station. By the time I was old enough to start paying attention to the news, we were able to receive broadcasts from local affiliates of the three major TV networks, as well as a weak signal from an independent station in another city. In the past 50 to 60 years, technological improvement has been phenomenal and the sources to choose from have increased by several orders of magnitude. However, as has been glaringly obvious lately, along the way, a key element of the news has been frighteningly perverted, if not lost. That key element is, simply, the reporting of the news. “Back in the day”, you could count on the fact that when you tuned in to news programs, like The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, you would just get the known details of that day’s current events. That seemed worthwhile and productive. Today, to a great degree, news reporting has become lost in a nearly endless supply of conjecture. This seems, at least counterproductive, if not dangerously destructive.
The current coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is, by far, the clearest example of this decline in broadcast journalism. I think Politico summarized the “not worthwhile” aspects of this well with an article entitled “Rush Limbaugh slams plane media ‘show’”. I’m not a “Ditto Head”. I very rarely listen to Limbaugh these days. But, I think he hit the nail on the head in saying,
“We’ve got anchors and anchorettes who don’t know beans about even why an airplane flies. They couldn’t explain the concept of air pressure differential or lift to you if their jobs depended on it. They go get guests, and nobody knows what happened here, so you got a bunch of people on TV who just want face time.”
Beyond Limbaugh’s “not worthwhile” points, there have been many instances where the coverage of this story has fallen into the category of “counterproductive, if not dangerously destructive”. Some of the current theories on why this flight has gone missing include:
- Some incident led to the crew, or perhaps all on board, being rendered unconscious. The plane continued to fly until it ran out of fuel and it went down, most likely at sea.
- Terrorism – The plane went down in a failed attempt.
- Terrorism – The plane landed, to be used in a future attempt.
- Hijacking – For some cargo on board.
- Hijacking – For some person/s on board.
- Crew suicide.
- Some nation’s military mistakenly shot it down.
- Struck by a meteor.
- Taken by space aliens.
- Sucked into a black hole.
Now, I won’t say that none of this speculation has been interesting to me. It has, and I understand that it’s interesting to others too. But, beyond entertainment value, what does it accomplish. I don’t see it adding to solving the mystery. With the resources that our nation and dozens of other nations have dedicated to solving this mystery, I assume that it will be solved, if possible. The current press coverage adds nothing to that and in fact, it can detract by making it necessary for those seeking a solution to divert their attention in response to the press. Also, publicizing weaknesses that could be exploited by terrorists or hijackers or the suicidal doesn’t aid the experts doing the searching. It’s more likely to result in encouraging others with ill intent to carry out their evil plans. And, if I was among those who buy into meteor or space alien or black hole theories, I wouldn’t need the encouragement of the press to put on my tin-foil hat and head for my bunker in Northern Idaho. Moreover, I see none of this as bringing comfort to the loved ones of the crew and passengers who were aboard Flight 370. In my view, our society would be much better served by the media if they would limit themselves to, simply, reporting the known details of current events and applying enough true journalism to assure that all with related responsibility are held to account. If that was the case, I’d be completely comfortable in knowing what’s going on in the world and that all that can be done about a particular occurrence is being done. Furthermore, the resources that are currently being wasted on conjecture could be turned towards other issues that are just as important, if less titillating.