Please, for the love of Cronkite: Give us a break from the missing plane. Yes, we all wonder what happened to it. Yes, our hearts go out to the families seeking resolution. But really, CNN enough. Put your hands up and step away from the story.
Im in the doctors office the other day, right? Im waiting for my missus and the TV is on and Im half watching, half reading and youre covering the plane. And time passes. And youre covering the plane. And commercials intervene and you come back and youre covering the plane. And my wife comes out and its time to go and its been a solid hour and youre still covering the plane. Nothing but the plane.
Im on your website maybe six times a day, CNN, grazing for news. Have you had another lead story in the last month? Has nothing else of importance happened to any of the 7.1 billion people on this planet? I look at you and I want to start screaming like Tattoo on Fantasy Island: De plane! De plane! De plane!
And CNN, is it really true your coverage includes asking whether aliens abducted Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? Or whether it was swallowed by the Bermuda Triangle? Did you actually wonder aloud if it had flown into a black hole?
You know what, CNN? I dont even watch cable news anymore. Havent for years. Not interested in imbibing MSNBCs perennially aggrieved liberalism nor Foxs angry-all-the-time conservatism. Not interested in watching you play with your holograms, either
But there are days when youve got no choice. Theres been a school shooting, a terrorist attack, a national election. On those days, CNN, I always turn to you on the theory or maybe just the faint hope that there still flickers within you some faint, vestigial notion of what news is some last bit of fealty to the ideal of getting the facts and telling the story, giving people information they need to understand their world and make decisions about their lives.
Yes, youre right. Thats so 1978 of me.
Look, CNN, I know that before this happened your numbers were in the tank and you were down to your last dozen viewers or so. Im not without sympathy. Still, theres something sadly whorish in the way you chase the ratings bump this story has given you. One struggles to imagine the aforementioned Cronkite, much less the sainted Edward R. Murrow peace be upon him selling their newsmens souls so nakedly just so their network might charge a little more for toilet paper commercials.
But then, Ed and Uncle Walter have left the building, havent they? And yes, maybe they had the luxury of regarding the news as a public service, a sacred trust, consonant with Thomas Jeffersons belief that an informed electorate was vital to a self-governing nation. But you have no such luxury. What you have is a 24/7 news cycle and the need to fill it if not with news, then speculation, if not speculation, then controversy, if not controversy then opinion, if not opinion, then froth.
Fine. But this is not a trend without impact, CNN. We are becoming a stupider people. You see it in test scores, but you see it more viscerally in the way some of us equate higher volume with sounder logic, wear party as identity, refuse new information that challenges old beliefs, act as if everything must entertain us. Even the news.
It seems like somebody ought to take a stand against that. Just saying.
Granted, the missing jetliner is not an unimportant story. But neither is it a story deserving of the kind of round-the-clock-man-on-the-moon-war-is-over-presidential-assassination coverage you have given it.
CNN, that jet isnt the only thing lost. Have you seen your credibility lately?
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Readers may write to him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.