The New York Times’ Bill Carter writes about CNN’s frequently compelling but sometimes head scratching MH370 coverage and what it’s doing for the network’s ratings…
Another story of the moment, the crisis in Ukraine, has also demanded attention, and while CNN has covered developments there, the senior executive acknowledged newsroom decisions had made to emphasize the plane story over Ukraine coverage.
In this case, the executive said, the CNN president, Jeff Zucker, who has aggressively steered the network toward committing full resources — and airtime — to continuing stories of intense interest, did not issue a memo telling producers to go wall to wall on the plane story. “It was understood,” the CNN senior executive said.
“One way to define ourselves is to go all-in on stories of human drama,” the executive said. Another way is to find creative ways to illustrate the story, which accounted for the heavy use of the flight simulator, the theme song, and the “visual room” map.
The likelihood is that CNN will feature the story aggressively until the mystery has loosened its grip on the public. In the past, the network has seen these ratings surges subside as interest in the events faded, with no residual impact on CNN’s regular ratings.
Usually by this point in a story that doesn’t offer a lot of new revelations in a rapid fire fashion, I burn out because I can’t take any more. Not this time. Maybe it’s a combination of the mystery involved and the comparatively unique set of circumstances that surround it.
Whatever it is, I’m hooked…and I’m hooked on CNN as they have managed to keep the story, as slothily incremental as it has been unfolding, going…not by advancing the story much (how can you advance something that isn’t advancing much) but by advancing our understanding of the story in ways other networks either hadn’t or couldn’t. Yes, there have been times when CNN has tried my patience by taking the story in directions that neither make sense nor work. But their sucess/failure rate has been unusually high for an industry that normally has run out of angles by this point.
But this novelty is not exclusively the realm of CNN. Today, on Ronan Farrow Daily the segment with Lester Holt and his flight simulator which got noted by Mediaite. But the most interesting aspect of this on its face rather gratuitous display, something Mediaite failed to point out, was the reason why investigators might be interested in the simulator. If it had been used to work our flight planning scenarios that directly tied in with what happened with MH370, there would be a record of that in the software’s logs…unless they got deleted of course.
It is things like Holt’s flight simulator demonstration and Martin Savidge’s hours in a flight simulator in segments that span commercial breaks where cable news is really shining because they help to explain why the story is unfolding the way it is.