Is CNN the Most Effective Communicator for the Malaysia Airlines Missing Flight Story?

The current and constant coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is getting out of hands, per several news reports. This week, Salon discussed the issues with the coverage and the complaints made by MSNBC reporters and reported on the Twitter backlash due to the coverage. Even CNN itself reported on the constant coverage that lacks on the revelation of new facts or any relevant information. At one point, CNN displayed a flight simulator every half hour and gave various theories into what could have happened if they actually had any relevant information.

To many individuals, this might seem like a news company trying too hard to win ratings and gain worldwide viewers. However, based on prior research, one can assume that CNN producers created this form of coverage to engage its audience and give them a sense of understanding. As stated by Wessels, Anderson, Durrant, and Ellis (2012), producers form messages in a way to will make an audience feel connected to the story (p. 203). Therefore, this gives us an understanding as to why CNN covered this particular story from several different angles. In doing so, the producers ensure that they can attract the attention of individuals who might not be personally connected to the story.

Along with this, CNN’s use of a flight simulator can be described as a way to place viewers within the flight so that they could feel connected to the passengers. As described by Wessels et al. (2012), producers use imaging to decrease the distance between the viewer and the story (p. 202). By decreasing the distance, the producers can create a relationship between the viewer and the victims, participants, etc. Once the relationship occurs, the viewer may become emotionally connected to the story and they will continue to watch the program. This is interesting because the relationship might occur even if the program does not provide any relevant information or facts to help clarify the story or help the viewer come to a conclusion.

Through the processes described above, CNN develops what Wessels et al. describes as a socio-narratology because they form meanings in the missing flight story that a viewer cannot find in other networks. Therefore, the viewer will only come to CNN to watch its coverage because they know the anchors will continue to shape the meaning that is relatable to them. With this in mind, one can argue that CNN is actually doing an effective job of communicating with its audience even though it is not providing facts, relevant updates, or useful information.


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