Please, for the love of Cronkite: Give us a break from the missing plane. Yes, we all wonder what happened to it. Yes, our hearts go out to the families seeking resolution. But really, CNN … enough. Put your hands up and step away from the story.
I'm in the doctor's office the other day, right? I'm waiting for my missus and the TV is on and I'm half watching, half reading and you're covering the plane. And time passes. And you're covering the plane. And commercials intervene and you come back and you're covering the plane. And my wife comes out and it's time to go and it's been a solid hour and you're still covering the plane. Nothing but the plane.
I'm on your website maybe six times a day, CNN, grazing for news. Have you had another lead story in the last month? Has nothing else of importance happened to any of the 7.1 billion people on this planet? I look at you and I want to start screaming like Tattoo on Fantasy Island: “De plane! De plane! De plane!”
And CNN, is it really true your “coverage” includes asking whether aliens abducted Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? Or whether it was swallowed by the Bermuda Triangle? Did you actually wonder aloud if it had flown into a black hole?
You know what, CNN? I don't even watch cable news anymore. Haven't for years. Not interested in imbibing MSNBC's perennially aggrieved liberalism nor Fox's angry-all-the-time conservatism. Not interested in watching you play with your holograms, either. But there are days when you've got no choice. There's been a school shooting, a terrorist attack, a national election. On those days, CNN, I always turn to you on the theory — or maybe just the faint hope — that there still flickers within you some faint, vestigial notion of what news is — some last bit of fealty to the ideal of getting the facts and telling the story, giving people information they need to understand their world and make decisions about their lives.
Yes, you're right. That's so 1978 of me.
Look, CNN, I know that before this happened your numbers were in the tank and you were down to your last dozen viewers or so. I'm not without sympathy. Still, there's something sadly … whorish in the way you chase the ratings bump this story has given you. One struggles to imagine the aforementioned Cronkite, much less the sainted Edward R. Murrow — peace be upon him — selling their newsmen's souls so nakedly just so their network might charge a little more for toilet paper commercials.
But then, Ed and Uncle Walter have left the building, haven't they? And yes, maybe they had the luxury of regarding the news as a public service, a sacred trust, consonant with Thomas Jefferson's belief that an informed electorate was vital to a self-governing nation. But you have no such luxury. What you have is a 24/7 news cycle and the need to fill it — if not with news, then speculation, if not speculation, then controversy, if not controversy then opinion, if not opinion, then froth.
Fine. But this is not a trend without impact, CNN. We are becoming a stupider people. You see it in test scores, but you see it more viscerally in the way some of us equate higher volume with sounder logic, wear party as identity, refuse new information that challenges old beliefs, act as if everything must entertain us. Even the news.
It seems like somebody ought to take a stand against that. Just saying.
Granted, the missing jetliner is not an unimportant story. But neither is it a story deserving of the kind of round-the-clock-man-on-the-moon-war-is-over-presidential-assassination coverage you have given it.
CNN, that jet isn't the only thing lost. Have you seen your credibility lately?
(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpittsmiamiherald.com.)
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