The Pryor Times

Opinion

April 8, 2014

Hype, hype, hooray!

PRYOR, OK — How long do you think you'd continue to buy this newspaper if every single story on every single page for the last three weeks was about a missing airplane? Or a hurricane? Or a baby down a well? Or any other single topic? No sports, no weddings, no obits, no financial news?

Doesn't the word "news," by definition, mean that what you're reading or seeing is something new? Why does this only apply to newspapers, and not TV? How does TV get away with this? Why is the shelf-life of a story so long on television, but so short in print?

It's not that there's been anything factually wrong with the missing Malaysian Flight 370 story (and if there were, how would we know?). It's that the coverage is so out of proportion to everything else that's going on in the world that you have to wonder: Why is it being so over-hyped?  

Some will say "It's obvious: CNN's ratings have gone through the roof." No, they haven't. CNN's ratings have gone from the toilet to the shower stall. They're a long way from the front door. It's like saying "Our ratings are up 50 percent!" But 50 percent of next-to-nothing is still next-to-nothing plus half of next-to-nothing. It's not something to brag about.

My personal theory is that CNN hijacked the plane to boost their ratings and save them money at the same time. They save money by just running a tape of everything they said yesterday and playing it over and over. Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper have probably been on vacation in Brazil for the last three weeks, hoping no one will notice that they say the same thing day after day.

And I can say that with authority because I know nothing about airplanes and little about television news. I don't even understand how planes stay up in the air. It doesn't make any sense. When you see how much the plane weighs, and then you see all those people get on with their carry-on luggage that weighs as much they do and then you look at the giant ball of cholesterol sitting next to you -- you have to think to yourself, "There is no way that this thing is ever even going to leave the ground."

Which is why I wonder that I haven't been asked to be on TV and talk about Malaysian Flight 370. As I am eminently unqualified to address the matter, I wonder why my phone isn't ringing off the hook with offers to spout the first thing that comes into my brain about it, the way most TV guests do.

This would be another thing that TV gets away with that newspapers can't: fake experts. On TV, they don't even say their guests are experts -- after all, why would this guy be on TV if he wasn't an expert? He's with the Policy Center for the Future, or the Association of Associated Associates, what more do you want?

One day I was watching one of the financial channels, trying to figure out where I would lose money next, and Warren Buffett -- the most successful stock picker in the world -- was the guest. Few people know more about investing than Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, and he generously shared his time and advice with the public. Their very next guest was a guy that owns a pawn shop in Las Vegas that is featured on reality TV. They gave him equal time with Buffett. The pawn shop fellow is a fun guy and an expert on running a pawn shop, and I can't blame him for being on -- it's good publicity -- but exactly what bit of wisdom were investors to take away from his appearance?

Flight 370 is not something to joke about or make fun of; there is real pain and sorrow there. But 115 people die in car accidents every day in the U.S. That's a Flight 370 every three days. Why is that not a news story for the last three weeks? On whose value system are some lives more newsworthy than others?

    

(Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.)

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