Missing Flight 370: News or Excuse to Panic?

Posted by Amanda Goodwin

Photo Licensed under Creative Commons, 2011

 I found myself angered after watching CNN yesterday. For nearly three hours, all coverage focused on the unknown whereabouts of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The plane went off the grid over the weekend and it has been all the news has talked about since. What happened to the plane and its 200-plus passengers is still unclear.
And that is precisely why the media’s coverage might be stepping over the line.

It is obvious that this event has the potential to be very tragic. But by profiling various passengers as potential threats—even terrorists—almost immediately after discovering that two passengers flew with stolen passports comes off as a bit rash, even insensitive. By painting the pilot and copilot in such a negative light by questioning their integrity based on their pasts, one has to also question the integrity of the media. It is likely that the plane crashed somewhere after it changed course, but it has not been confirmed. Many of the experts interviewed were unable to give a definitive answer to the reporters’ questions because everything is still speculative. The media’s job is to keep the public informed, not to incite panic.

As a result of this coverage, conspiracy theories have emerged. From elves, to pilot suicide, to North Korean terrorism, to ripples in the space-time continuum a la Lost, the Internet is buzzing. This isn’t the media’s fault, of course. But it becomes problematic when they start exploring some of these ideas as plausible.

This isn’t the first time the media have treated a situation like this. It is understandable that they are preparing for the worst possible scenario, but could they also be connecting dots that aren’t there? Do you think there are more sympathetic ways to go about reporting on situations like these?

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4 responses to “Missing Flight 370: News or Excuse to Panic?

  1. I totally agree with you that (as usual) the media is going to blow this entire this out of proportion and scare people to the point where they will be scared to fly again. Not only that but you are right about their insensitive assumptions and “theories”. I think it is perfectly normal for us to assume the worse and to begin putting different scenarios out there on what could have possibly happened, but it is a bit rash as you stated. I have been following this story, in fact was going to blog about it (no worries) and find this story mind-boggling. It just bothers me to no end that this plane just vanished. I am glad that they are making a big deal out of this of course because it is indeed a big deal, however, going about it with less dramatization and uneducated assumptions would be a better route to take.

  2. I recently read a fascinating Washington Post article on this very topic. I think the big risk when a news story gets this huge is that everyone has an opinion on what may have happened. I love when people get interested in the news enough that they interact with it and think about it. However, journalism with even an ounce of integrity should be based on substantiated claims. I am increasingly frustrated with every John Doe in the media wanting to put in his two cents and swaying uninformed individuals into believing things that are either unproven or untrue. An influential position in journalism comes with a lot more responsibility than is being taken here.

  3. Linley Sanders

    First off, I absolutely love this blog post. It made me want to stand up and cheer. Last night, I was watching CNN and got so frustrated. For hours they would claim new theories and speculation was “Breaking News,” going in circles in order to ride out the ratings rise. You captured that perfectly in this blog post, especially the part that says “one has to also question the integrity of the media” when they start behaving in this manner. I just wish everyone had the same opinion on media integrity and the integrity of reporting verses the desire for ratings and financial boosts.

  4. averygregurich

    The Bermuda triangle argument was perhaps my favorite “expert” discussion I’ve ever seen on broadcast news. An absolute train wreck, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Yet, this was our nation’s best coverage of the story? Sad.

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