Thursday, May 1, 2014


In the l976 film Network, Peter Finch, played an anchor named Howard Beale who famously implores his viewers to stick their heads out the window and scream, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Fat chance we're going to find any Howard Beales in today’s competitive news environment. How refreshing it would be to encounter an anchor who threatened to commit suicide on the air! Most of what we hear on the news is enough to drive audiences to suicide, if not drink. The elation accompanying the coverage of the disappearance of MH 370 on CNN is palpable as the networks ratings have benefited from the plane’s uncanny demise (“CNN’s Rating Surge Covering the Mystery of the Missing Airliner,” NYT, 3/17/14). Just a normal crash would not have made for what has become a television phenomenon. No this one has been a real doozy with no black boxes or debris in sight. The MH 370 phenomenon lies at the crossroads of aviation and television and if it continues will spurn a new academic major. The least that can be said is that the rate of increase of an anchor’s salary is directly proportional to the percentage of loose ends that remain from a catastrophe. Conversely, what is death to any network is the absence of bad news. God forbid the remains of the missing plane are ever found, the ratings will plummet. Human interest stories about boy scout troops saving endangered owls create such an obvious level of depression in broadcasters that many of them look they are already on one of the new generation of serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Television, like life, is cruel. And a period of peace and prosperity with no planes mysteriously disappearing is anathema to news executives and anchors both. Right now with the missing plane, the sunken South Korea ferry and the threat of civil war in the Ukraine, news people are having a feeding frenzy. Just look at the shit-faced grins on their faces as they report all that is wrong with the world.


  1. In a way the cynical portrayal of news media in Network holds true today, reaffirming my belief nothing really changes, we just constantly re-edit the past to think it does...

  2. Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

    all best Francis


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