No one knows what happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. That doesn’t stop news outlets from talking about theories.
Explanations are all over the place, sometimes bordering on the absurd:
- Local news sources are asking local pilots for their best guesses.
- Multiple sites wrote about rock-star Courtney Love’s tweets about the jet’s location.
- Politico reported on Congressmen’s theories about the disappearance. (SPOILER: Representative Peter King thinks it was a suicide.)
- There are online guides to the theories.
- On Fox, Bill O’Reilly blasted other news coverage.
- And this story, too, is a story about stories:
“The problem is that when there is nothing new, you have a ton of talking heads blathering on, which gets them into speculation, which is not information,” said Judy Muller, a broadcast professor at USC’s Annenberg journalism school, “it’s blather.”
“You can’t really tell 24 hour news stations that thrive on this sort of story to only come on when they have new information, because that’s not what drives ratings,” she said.
And, CNN’s ratings are way up. The AP reported that prime-time ratings for the news channel have risen 68 percent.
“Let me be provocative,” said Jill Geisler, who teaches at the Poynter Institute, “I’m glad CNN is giving it this much coverage.” Too often, she said, the only news that gets attention in the U.S. is news about Americans.
— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) March 17, 2014
But this mystery transcends that. People want find the missing plane. To know what happened. There’s an element of fear that drives us. “This is a story that involves mystery, universality, and relatibility,” Geisler said.
We just have to remember this isn’t entertainment. It’s not a movie. There are 239 missing people.