No, CNN, space aliens didn’t take down Flight 370

It might be overkill to poke more fun at CNN for the network’s over-the-top coverage of the missing Malaysian jetliner. Yet when the cable news station pulls something like this, it’s too hard to resist.

CNN has been the brunt of many well-deserved jokes over the last two months since the flight went missing on March 8. The coverage was seemingly around the clock and included interviews with psychics, questions about black holes, and suggestions that the reason the flight went missing might be due to supernatural forces. No matter what bit of non-news was reported, CNN always used the all-cap lead-in of BREAKING NEWS. What was thought to be flotsam from the flight turned out to be garbage – breaking news. The supposed path of the flight changed – breaking news. The flight is thought to be in a different ocean – breaking news. Each tidbit, no matter how inconsequential, was reported breathlessly.

To attempt to justify the over-saturation in coverage, CNN polled more than 1,000 Americans about what they thought happened to the plane. The poll was done with CNN’s usual polling practices by telephone. Some of the results are predictable: Nealy 80% of Americans think there are no survivors. Slightly over half think the public eventually will find out what happened to the flight, while 46% think the flight’s status will forever remain a mystery. About two-thirds think it’s somewhat or very likely that the flight crew had something to do with the disappearance; 57% thought terrorists might have been involved; and 42% blamed hijackers. Only 9% of survey respondents blame aliens.

Wait, WHAT?

Yes, CNN asked survey respondents the following question, with four possible answers: “Now here are a few groups that some people have suggested may be responsible for the disappearance of Flight 370 if an accident or mechanical failure was not the cause. As I read each one, please tell me whether you think it is very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not likely at all that the disappearance of Flight 370 was due to actions by that group.” The choices were:

A) Terrorists or people associated with a hostile foreign government.

B) Hijackers not associated with a terrorist organization.

C) The pilot, co-pilot, or another member of the plane’s crew.

D) Space aliens, time travelers, or beings from another dimension.

Note: The directions to those asking the question in the survey were to put A, B, and C in random order, but always put D last. Well, gosh. At least we got through some semi-realistic possibilities until we got to the space aliens.

How could a question like that get into what is supposed to be a serious poll, you may ask. I wish I knew the answer to that.

But CNN does have one silver lining – its ratings grew over the last two months. So I guess we can expect more of the same if network officials see space aliens as the key to success.

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