Tonawanda News

April 10, 2014

WALLACE: Airplane coverage has gone awry

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I don’t know about you, but I am sick of the cable news stations’ constant coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet. 

I understand that it is a terrible tragedy and have nothing but sympathy for the families of the passengers and crew on board, but the constant speculation about what may have happened to the missing plane is mind-numbing.

Every single day, stations like CNN, MSNBC and HLN (I don’t watch Fox “News” as a general rule) have endless coverage on the missing plane. 

The speculation has run rampant and the fact is that after more than 30 days, no one knows for sure what happened to the plane.

The facts that we do know are that MH370 was a Boeing 777-200ER scheduled to fly from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport on March 8. At 07:24 MST, Malaysia Airlines reported that the aircraft flying the route had lost contact with Subang Air Traffic Control outside Kuala Lumpur. 

The aircraft had last been heard from less than an hour after takeoff. It carried 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 nations.

I was working that night on the news desk when the report came in and worried that by the time the paper came out the next morning, the story we published in our print edition would be old because the plane had been found. At the time I had no idea that more than a month later we would still not know the whereabouts of the airplane.

A multi-national search and rescue effort, reported as the largest in history, was initiated in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. Within a few days, this was extended to include the Strait of Malacca and Andaman Sea and now the southern Indian Ocean.

The plane has now been missing for more than a month and experts say that the battery life on the black box pinger either has or will run out shortly. The normal battery life for a black box pinger is approximately 30 days.

Reports of possible debris spotted or pings heard from under water have made the wait a roller coaster ride for the distraught families. This coupled with the television news stations announcing “Breaking News” for every possible lead or press conference has made the search an agonizing wait for the relatives and loved ones of the passengers who are already going through so much. 

A “Breaking News” header is something that should only be used when there is something actually new and concrete to report.

CNN has had correspondent Martin Savidge reporting from the cockpit of a flight simulator nearly as long as the plane has been missing. There is even a hashtag to #freemartinsavidge trending on Twitter.

To many it seems impossible in this day and age, with all the technology we have available, to lose a Boeing 777 with more than 200 people on board. But here we are a month later and still no actual evidence of the plane’s fate.

However, that hasn’t stopped the media from putting on expert after expert to speculate, ad nauseam, about the possible causes of why the plane went missing and where it might be located.

I understand that it is the job of the media to relay information to the public but the key word there is information — facts — not theories based on nothing.

All this speculation is doing more harm than good by creating a mistrust of the media and the sheer amount of coverage is causing the public to become desensitized to the tragedy. 

Until actual evidence is found, no one can say with any level of certainty what happened to MH370. 

For these media outlets to continue to speculate based on hearsay and jump to conclusions based on rumor is irresponsible journalism.

Amy Wallace is the city editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact her at amy.wallace@tonawanda-news.com.