NPR’s On The Media chose to talk in depth about the media coverage of missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370, and they spoke about one thing I found fascinating in particular: accuracy in reporting.
The theme of the broadcast was somewhat congratulatory, surprisingly. There was a great deal of reporting on this missing flight, and the NPR commentators said they found the major news sources’ coverage exemplary in abstaining from faulty reporting.
This was fascinating in itself to me, as I found a great deal of faulty reporting based on fallacies of speculation. Things as far-fetched and ridiculous as black holes were named as possible options, and this on national television.
In fact, because there was no information, but the story was compelling, many news and media outlets came out with nothing but speculation, leaving behind the meager facts to simply write content that people would consume.
If there was content on this compelling, interesting, heart-wrenching human interest story, people would read it if it were factual or not. It didn’t have to be true, it just had to allow people to think about the right theme. It was sometimes embarrassing to the writers or reporters of the content, but it was basically just good business. There was little to say, but news sources have to say something or they run out of business.
This showed through particularly with CNN’s Black Hole theory, as produced by Don Lemon, who, in all sincerity, asked a panel of experts, live on the air, if a small black hole were a potential theory for the plane’s disappearance.
And the experts agreed. It was ridiculous.
So what do we learn from this? It doesn’t matter if the story has well fleshed-out details or not. It only really matters that the story exists, and has the potential to be compelling and meaningful to the general public. If it is, then the public will put up with ridiculous speculations.