By JENNA JOHNSON
After Malaysia Air flight 370 went missing on March 8, the news media have been obsessed with finding it. Every TV station, network, and website offers viewers new developments, clues, and even theories at any opportunity.
The story even has celebrities captivated — Courtney Love chimed in tweeting a picture of the ocean with what appears to be oil on the surface that she thought might indicate where the plane landed. (Her theory was later rejected by crowdsourcing site, Tomnod.com).
Airline issues are often in the news, from excessive airport delays to mechanical difficulties and, unfortunately, sometimes a plane crashes. However, none of these stories make the top story of news websites for 11 consecutive days.
What makes this story so interesting is the mystery of it all. Audience attention has raised many questions: Why did the plane veer off course? Who was responsible? Was it an act of terrorism or simply a freak accident? And more importantly, why is this plane so hard to find it?
So far, many of these questions have been unanswered. The flight appeared to be on the correct course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing until all contact was lost at 1:22 a.m. The Royal Thai Air Force radar and the Malaysian military radar were able to track the plane turning west over the Indian Ocean toward the Strait of Malacca.
Investigators theorize that the plane was intentionally steered off-course, but still have no working knowledge of the plane’s final fate.
I think it is rare and particularly interesting that a story is picked up while it has more questions than answers. It doesn’t even lend itself to news coverage well, as there is no footage of the actual plane. Newscasters can only offer the new developments and interview aviation experts, occasionally throwing in some b-roll of the Indian Ocean or the aircraft tracking system. The story has become slightly more conducive to television with the background checks on the pilots and interviews of family members. In this particular case, the lack of answers is actually what causes the story to not to be newsworthy, but to stay newsworthy for so long.
However, though Flight 370 still remains a mystery, what is not a mystery is how much the families of the missing must be suffering. The story is both a mystery and a tragedy, and as the story develops, I truly hope that the media gives due respect to those who are personally affected by it. At times it is easy to become enveloped in the conspiracy and suspense, but the media must also remember that the 227 passengers lost is more than just a number.