Anderson Cooper finds Earhart: By happenstance, we were watching CNN late Wednesday night when the news broke from Australia.
The excitement started just before midnight. In this morning’s column, Gene Robinson—he must have been watching too—offers this account:
ROBINSON (3/21/14): Late Wednesday night, when Australian officials announced that a satellite had spotted what might be two pieces of floating debris in a remote part of the ocean, Anderson Cooper announced via Twitter that he was rushing back to the studio to cover this breaking development. Lemon was already on the air and had reported several times the entirety of what the Australians said—two pieces of debris, maybe, which might or might not be from the plane—but Cooper soon arrived to tell us the same thing, as if we were hard of hearing.We saw those events a bit differently.
We haven’t been able to find a transcript or tape from this unscheduled late-night performance. Based on memory, here’s what we saw:
Around 11:50, Lemon read a release from the Aussie government—a press release which featured words of caution. (Australian prime minister Abbott delivered a live statement about a half hour later.)
As Robinson notes, this original statement stressed the fact that the debris might not be from the missing plane. (Abbott said the same thing.) But those words of caution had little effect on the CNN gang, especially on the ebullient Richard Quest, who acted like a player on a 15th seeded basketball team which had just made it to the next round.
When Cooper arrived on the scene, we thought he re-established a bit of order, stressing the provisional nature of the new information. But that first ten minutes seemed pretty strange, which is why we’ve been trying to find a transcript.
In a somewhat poorly reasoned piece, Robinson stresses the boatloads of speculation which have ruled CNN ever since the plane disappeared. The excitement which greeted Wednesday’s announcement put a capper on this for us.
Judging from Quest’s triumphal excitement, you would have thought that Amelia Earhart had just been found, alive and ready to speak via Skype. In all honesty, Quest didn’t seem to understand what the word “possibly” means.
He rolled on the floor like a third-team point guard whose team has just pulled the big upset.
Do these “newsmen” have any journalistic skills or culture at all? Consider how remarkable the orgy of speculation has been this particular week:
At certain junctures, cable’s girls and boys go wild because it’s a “slow news week.” Nothing huge is going on, and the children take advantage.
That wasn’t the case this week. By normal standards, an enormous set of events were transpiring in Ukraine.
By normal standards, this was a very big news week. But so what? On CNN, the team didn’t want to discuss Ukraine.
At CNN, they wanted to speculate, preferably until dawn. They didn’t want to report on Ukraine, rich though that topic may be.
How rich are the events unfolding in and around Crimea? The history alone is mind-blowing. Yesterday morning, George Will worked from a Yale historian’s book about life in Ukraine under Stalin:
WILL (3/20/14): To fathom the tangled forces, including powerful ones of memory, at work in that singularly tormented place, begin with Timothy Snyder’s stunning book. Secretary of State John Kerry has called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “a 19th-century act in the 21st century.” Snyder reminds us that “Europeans deliberately starved Europeans in horrific numbers in the middle of the 20th century.” Here is Snyder’s distillation of a Welsh journalist’s description of a Ukrainian city:Other excerpts discussed by Will are much more confounding. You don’t have to accept Will’s thoughts about Obama or Putin, thoughts which play a minor role in this column.
“People appeared at 2 o’clock in the morning to queue in front of shops that did not open until 7. On an average day 40,000 people would wait for bread. Those in line were so desperate to keep their places that they would cling to the belts of those immediately in front of them. . . . The waiting lasted all day, and sometimes for two. . . . Somewhere in line a woman would wail, and the moaning would echo up and down the line, so that the whole group of thousands sounded like a single animal with an elemental fear.”
This…was an engineered famine, the intended result of Stalin’s decision that agriculture should be collectivized and the “kulaks”—prosperous farmers—should be “liquidated as a class.” In January 1933, Stalin, writes Snyder, sealed Ukraine’s borders so peasants could not escape and sealed the cities so peasants could not go there to beg. By spring, more than 10,000 Ukrainians were dying each day...
Let’s face it—in vast parts of our journalism, “news” is basically over. “News” is the thing you’re forced to discuss if all escape routes have been blocked.
This week, the missing plane became an excuse to avoid traditional news. They could have talked about Ukraine—except Ukraine is boring.
Ukraine is boring, and hard.
Charlie Rose led a fascinating panel discussion about Ukraine last night. As he did, on CNN, the general clowning continued.
It has been that way for a long time now. Which part of the words “the debris may not be from the plane” didn’t Quest understand?