THE BLOG

CNN and Diana Christensen

03/24/2014 10:51 am ET | Updated May 20, 2014

There's something there, I swear it! The satellite saw it! Really, there's something there!

Last night, both CNN and MSNBC spent hours on how a satellite had spotted something in the Indian Ocean. That was it. Just that. But it sufficed as a rationale for ignoring Crimea, Affordable Health Care, Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

Of course, every once in a while they mentioned that no one knew at that point if it was airplane wreckage. Or a bunch of boots. Or anything else. But that qualifier was contradicted by the sheer time devoted to this revelation. If this news wasn't important yet, if we didn't know what it was, why devote so much precious air time to it?

Here's how the New York Times (hereinafter referred to as "real journalists") covered the same story. The headline read, "Two Weeks After a Plane Crash, Debris Would Be Only a Modest Clue, Experts Say." Later, a "real journalist" pointed out that "two weeks after the crash, there is certain to be less of the debris on the surface, and what remains is more dispersed and further from the clues that investigators really want..."

Citing the case of Air France Flight 447, which crashed in 2009, after five days experts estimated that the debris would have drifted 15 miles away, quite a distance. However, they actually found it 30 miles away, and in a different direction. The article also noted that the important parts of a plane sink right away, while floating debris drifts on the currents for many miles, further throwing off investigators.

So why the coverage? CNN, which has had mixed results lately, scored a giant success with this story. This wasn't about news; it was about ratings.

Worst of all, CNN's Don Lemon had a regular hour-long broadcast devoted to the all the theories being bandied about on social media. Pandering, in other words.

In the movie Network, executive Diana Christensen, played by Fay Dunaway, decides to highlight Sybil the Soothsayer as the star of a news show. Is CNN far behind?