UPDATE, 8:57 AM: ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC as well as the cable networks have just broken away from normal programming to cover President Obama‘s remarks live from the White House on the latest from yesterday’s Malaysia Airlines disaster over the Ukraine. Obama said one U.S. citizen was among the 298 passengers killed from what is suspected to be a surface-to-air missile launched by pro-Russian rebels. He called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and demanded a credible investigation, saying a UN investigation is already underway with Ukraine and Russia expected to cooperate fully.
Around 11:30 PM ET last night word that new satellite images had pinpointed two large objects in the ocean a couple thousand miles off the coast of Australia electrified TV news teams covering missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. Fox New Channel‘s Shepard Smith jumped back on the air at midnight to report on the new development, but anchored from the newsroom studio because it takes a big team to fire up The Deck. CNN broke into its AC360 repeat at 11:26 PM with CNNI anchor John Vause, with Don Lemon and Richard Quest jumping in at 11:55 PM and Anderson Cooper added at 12:07 AM. MSNBC‘s Betty Nguyen anchored for that network, handing off to Chris Jansing around 2 AM.
ABC‘s lucky David Wright was flying on a U.S. Navy surveillance plane in the Indian Ocean when it was directed to the sightings, and told Nightline “We’ll be the first on the site.” But when ABC’s Good Morning America clocked in this morning, Wright, now back in Perth, reported the surveillance plane had turned up only a freighter and some dolphins. Watch Wright’s GMA report here:
Watch Shep’s midnight report here:
Weekly Column: People who work in the media are deeply divided into two factions right now: those who think TV news operations have lost their minds with their coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and those believe there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to this Practically Perfect TV News Story that has held viewers spellbound for nearly two weeks and potentially launched a few new TV careers, despite a pesky lack of actual information. And while few things in this world are more painful than the realization that an estrangement has occurred between colleagues who for years have jogged along through life sharing the same views on the relative importance of TV news, the uselessness of overnight ratings, the urgency of attracting millennials (or at least viewers under 50) and how great House Of Cards is, the divide has been interesting to watch play out.
In the interest of accuracy, viewers actually have learned a lot watching coverage of the missing plane story. They now have useful information about the relative ease of boarding an international flight in Malaysia with a stolen passport, which may inform future vacation-making plans. Better still, they’ve learned where Malaysia is on a map, its proximity to Australia, and the depth of the Indian Ocean. They know how much they could get on the open market for a used Boeing 777. Security experts have told them they’re not alone in suspecting that a steward armed with an aisle-blocking beverage cart is not a terribly effective way to thwart a would-be plane hijacker during a pilot potty break. They now know what a “C block” is in the TV news biz thanks to Fox News star Megyn Kelly, who joked to NYT reporter Michael Schmidt, “Way to hold it right until the C block, Michael!” the other night when he was her guest — but waited to give her his scoop (that its first path-diverting turn was done by a computer system programmed in the cockpit) until later in her program so it would first break on his paper’s website.
Viewers love this story because it’s jammed with mystery, and pathos, and taps into their fear of flying — like Lost. So many had suggested it resembled the setup of the ABC serialized hit that a plan to screen the pilot during last weekend’s 10-year reunion panel at PaleyFest was scrubbed, out of consideration for the families of the missing passengers and crew. Last Sunday, CNN’s Don Lemon wondered, “Especially today, on a day when we deal with the supernatural — we go to church, the supernatural power of God…people are saying to me, ‘Why aren’t you talking about the possibility — and I’m just putting it out there — that something odd happened to this plane, something beyond our understanding?’ ”
CNN continued to pull in bigger-than-usual crowds Thursday night with nearly non-stop coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight – this time winning three hours of primetime in the news demo. Specifically CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront (366,000) beat On the Record With Greta Van Susteren (290,000) at 7 PM, AC360 (454,000) beat The O’Reilly Factor (429,000) again at 8 PM, and CNN’s on-its-way-out Piers Morgan Live (452,000) beat The Kelly File (421,000) at 9 PM. It’s the first time since the Boston Marathon bombing that AC360 beat The O’Reilly Factor at 8 on two consecutive nights.
Fox News Channel dominated all three hours among total viewers. FNC also won 8-11 PM primetime in total viewers and in the news demo, because CNN plunged to 218,000 demo viewers at 10 PM, losing more than half of Morgan’s demo crowd with the second episode of its eight-episode docu-series Chicagoland, while FNC’s Hannity clocked 389,000 demo viewers in the hour.