USA Today has an opinion piece on CNN’s coverage of the Malaysian airplane mystery. They report that BuzzFeed found that “during one stretch on March 12, CNN spent 256 out of 271 broadcast minutes on the plane.” Overcoverage? Yes. There were plenty of other things going on in the world. Plenty. But, as the piece notes, with partisan coverage of issues by Fox News and the opposite audience appeal from MSNBC, CNN needs to find new ways to increase ratings. So, what do they do? They have to fill the time somehow.
When you are doing that day after day, and when many of those days bring with them no real developments, that’s a problem. How do you fill all of that time?
Here’s how: Anchor Don Lemon wondered whether “supernatural” forces had shown their hand. There was talk of black holes and zombie planes. Little sister network HLN brought in a psychic to help out. No theory was too crackpot to be ignored. No non- or minor development could be denied the breaking news label.
A better way to cheapen the brand is hard to imagine. Yet, tragically, ratings rose. You think maybe CNN will try this again?
Sadly, yes. The same thing happens with us here at DN. The extreme views on either side get far more hits and attention than we do. The best answer is often the most complicated and probably least dramatic, involving no supernatural forces or alien invaders. Are people so bored with their day-to-day lives that they have to manufacture drama or live vicariously through TV? I think that’s a part of it. CNN has caught on that people can’t not watch a train wreck or an outrage festival. Drama gets hits. What ever happened to just getting the news? If that was still the case, DN certainly wouldn’t need to be here. As I note to people often, I could do this full time with a full staff and still never NOT be busy. It gets overwhelming.