Media Coverage Of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Failed Miserably In These 5 Cases (MSNBC, We're Looking At You)
Monday morning brought the news that friends and family of Flight 370 passengers have been fearing for weeks: That Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 must have crashed into the South Indian Ocean, based on the most recent available data. The announcement was met with anguish by the family members and loved ones left behind — a moment which American cable news viewers were given a grim glimpse into Monday morning, when an on-air call to an MSNBC reporter with a group of Flight 370 families saw the public broadcasting of their tortured screams and cries.
The audio is extremely disturbing, and feels violating to even listen to.
But that isn't the only instance of the media dropping the ball, flying off the handle, or offending our simple sensibilities of good-taste in the course of their MH370 coverage. There's been plenty of that to go around, and here are four examples we won't soon forget.
1. Don Lemon: Was MH370 Swallowed By a Black Hole?
Okay, so he didn't really believe this, right? Lemon basically admitted as much when introducing this now-infamous CNN segment, theorizing that maybe, since we don't exactly know what happened to the vanished aircraft, it got sucked into a black hole?
Lemon introduced the conspiracy theory by reading two fractured-English tweets on air asking about black holes, and comparing the MH370 to "the movie LOST" before turning to his panel.
I know it's preposterous, but, is it preposterous, do you think Mary?
Yes, it is preposterous. It's also a superstitious, pseudo-scientific, inane and inhumane topic to kick around on a worldwide broadcast, while everyone waits enrapt for real information.
The whole thing is redeemed only by a delightful response from former U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Mary Schiavo.
Well, it is, I mean a black hole is, a small black hole would suck in our entire universe, so we know it's not that, the Bermuda triangle is often weather, and LOST is a TV show, so I think, I also like things for which there's data, history, crunch the numbers...
2. Life Is Not A Television Show
It's no surprise that companies' dumb, offensive or inane Tweets get a lot of attention, and not in the ways they'd wanted. Often, the tried-and-tested scheme for getting away with a tone-deaf remark is the oldest and simplest one — delete that Tweet.
That's exactly what Omaha-based KETV did, after tweeting out the following teaser image to their coverage of MH370's disappearance:
The ABC affiliate ultimately apologized, after it became clear that the quick-delete strategy didn't take.
3. Fox News Does What Fox News Does
On Fox News, the attempt to fill time on such a heavily-reported story veered from the merely pseudo-scientific to the overtly Biblical, thanks to host Bill Hemmer. In the course of reflecting on the slow, ongoing search for the missing plane, Hemmer uttered the sentence for which he'll likely forever be internet-famous:
So it took us, what, 100 years to find the Titanic? Took us 2000 years to find Noah's Ark? Do we ever find Flight 370?
For the record, Noah's Ark hasn't been "discovered." Hemmer is likely referencing a recent, debunked claim that evidence of the Ark's existence was found in Eastern Turkey. It's not true; there is no known scientific evidence in favor of the Bible's great flood, let alone physical evidence of an Ark. (Also, the Titanic sunk in 1912, and was discovered in 1985.)
4. Wrong Place, Wrong Time For the New York Times
Sometimes all the good intention, diligence and restraint in the world isn't going to save you from an embarrassing flap. This was demonstrated by The New York Times Monday morning, when the combination of a top-page banner ad for the iPad Air collided with the news of MH370's presumed fate, to uncomfortable effect.
Obviously, at worst it's an inartful page layout, but notwithstanding, these sorts of things can come off as deeply offensive — especially at exactly the same moment that Malaysian officials are declaring the plane 'ended' in the Indian Ocean.