Anderson Cooper's tear-filled hurricane reportage for CNN was depressing enough. But CNN continues to flog the tragedy to boost its own ratings.
In the past few days, the news channel has been splitting its screen to provide still more hurricane drama. On the right side, reporters talk about New Orleans, New Orleans, and New Orleans. On the left, CNN provides a slide show of names, ages, and photographs of children reported missing in Hurricane Katrina. CNN.com claims that, three weeks after the hurricane, more than 2,000 children remain "cut off from their parents or are missing altogether." Even fudged as it is—note the cut off from part— this statistic sounds dubious.
Something about the split screen bothered me, though at first I couldn't put my thumb on what it was. The reason only occurred to me when I realized that the network doesn't have pictures of many of the children, so it just runs a generic black profile of a child.
What possible good could it do to run the name of a missing child without running a picture? Try to think of a scenario where knowing that faceless seven-year-old Rhonda Owens (to make up a name) is missing is actually going to help anyone find her.
In fact, even when the network has a photo of the missing child, could any good come from the network's milk carton device?
Let's say you're wandering through an abandoned house in New Orleans and you happen to come across a little girl who's somehow been living there for the past two weeks or so. You probably don't need CNN to tell you that something's wrong. So what's the point?
The point is ratings. Under the guise of helping kids, CNN is milking this story for all the melodrama it's worth, exploiting the fact that there are numerous missing children, some of whom are probably dead. It's enough to make you want to cry.