Opinion: Toying with the search for MH370

Bec Fary / March 21, 2014 04:06 PM

Everyone is asking the same question: where in the world is MH370? 

Although no one yet has the answer, the media is eager to weigh in.

As relatives of the Malaysian Airlines crew and passengers face another agonizing day of waiting, media outlets continue to offer rolling coverage of the search.

The missing Boeing 777-200ER is 63.7m long. But with the search about to enter its third week, the plane is an elusive needle in a seemingly endless series of haystacks.

The mystery of MH370’s location has also served as a reminder of the media’s endless rush to be first with a story. In a 24-hour news cycle, journalists and editors are anxious to fill up readers’ news feeds; even if their news feeds are filling up with very little information.

For the past two weeks, news outlets have been publishing, editing and updating their versions of the ‘known facts’ about MH370.

Repeatedly, these facts have involved speculative theories, updates with very little information or, even more disappointingly, false hope. 

   Via SMH 

                              Photo: Sydney Morning Herald

            Via The Guardian2

                                      Photo: The Guardian

With the world waiting and hoping for a solid lead, media outlets are understandably trying to stay up-to-date. However, media-makers in Australia and overseas are sometimes behaving unkindly.

US TV network CNN has seen its ratings soar, with ratings data seeing its audience rising by almost 100 per cent in prime time.

In a seemingly desperate attempt to keep watchers glued to the screen, newsreaders began using a model replica of the Boeing 777-200ER to illustrate their coverage. 

The now-infamous “toy plane” incident garnered a serious backlash, yet is a symptom of the current media obsession.

The Chaser’s Julian Morrow was yesterday prompted to issue an apology after a comedy segment on Kiis FM’s Kyle and Jackie O radio show.

A misunderstanding with Kiis FM’s producers led Morrow to jokingly blame Lara Bingle for the plane’s disappearance as part of a series of conspiracy theories.

“I know [Bingle] normally does train wrecks or car crashes but I think this could be a new twist by Tourism Australia. It's part of the 'Where the Bloody Hell Are You campaign', trying to encourage people not to go overseas,” he said.

Presenter Kyle Sandilands, no stranger to offending listeners, objected this time by telling Morrow "... it's way too soon. We don't even know where the plane is."

With yesterday’s possible satellite image of plane wreckage, the media now has some more information to run with.

Tony Abbott has been quick to turn possible wreckage in the Indian Ocean into a good news story for Australians:

‘‘We don’t know what that satellite saw until we can get a much better, much closer look at it but this is the first tangible breakthrough in what up until now has been an utterly baffling mystery,” the Prime Minister told Australian media this morning. 

Search planes are currently scouring the Indian Ocean while ships travel to the possible debris site. Meanwhile, the media continues to scour for a headline.