News never stops. That’s the claim by news organizations when they try to convince you they are committed to providing you the latest stories 24/7. But what happens when the news stops but their live coverage doesn’t?
It happened over the holidays when CNN started airing its coverage of the Air Asia flight that went down. By now you have heard about bodies being found and the great sadness overseas. If you were one of the many people checking out CNN’s live coverage hours after the plane went missing, you were probably scratching your head at the middle-of-the-night “breaking news” reports the network featured.
Indeed there were some important details shared – over and over and over again. Over the three hours I tuned in (11 p.m. to 2 a.m. on a Saturday night) we knew a few things: a plane was missing, the number of people onboard and that weather was bad.
Without ever breaking for a commercial, CNN tracked down anyone and everyone with a crappy cellphone signal to comment on the story. The weather guy was suddenly an expert about planes, the White House correspondent kept coming on to say Obama had been briefed (but never provided any comment or reaction from the president – ever), aviation experts speculated their way through an interview – one even pointing out that the incident couldn’t have been a terrorist attack because those only happen in good weather conditions.
Viewers were subjected to the same B-roll (stock video) footage of planes taxiing on a runway, and propellers spinning, and a live shot of an airport terminal where people unrelated to the story just kept walking by. It was informative at first but for anybody tuned in for any length of time it was easy to check out and say, “OK, they’ve got nothing else.”
And the poor anchor who was handed over the reporting duties midway through stumbled her way through repeated “ums” and “uhs” as she slowly (and hesitantly) finished each sentence. “The most trusted name in news” slogan was lost when they put front and centre the most un-confident woman ever.
Reporting continued with, “we’ve just learned…” and a shot of a public tweet from someone as though CNN had researched and had insight about the comment. They even reported that Air Asia’s logo was changed from red to grey in some awkward scandal-inducing attempt.
The whole thing made for awkward programming, though fascinating if you were looking for something entertaining to watch on a Saturday night after a family Christmas gathering.