What the MH370 Story Tells Us About 'The New Anti-Journalism'

Screen shot: YouTube

Screen shot: YouTube

The airborne mystery that Malaysia Airlines MH370 has become reveals that journalism is now about “all data, no real facts, endless theories,” heavy on the conspiracy theory and devoid of truth, according to media watcher Michael Wolff.

Worse, Wolff says in a column published Monday in The Guardian, the MH370 test case shows us how “free conspiracies are for sale, with cautious restraint that propels the absence of truth.” That said, whether it’s coming from conspiracy theorists or cautious pundits, this particular non-story (in the hard-news sense) has dominated the news cycle for 10 days and counting:

The Tweetdeck column flutters like a deranged stock ticker, as furious as it did for the Woody Allen imbroglio, that other recent spike of obsessive interest in the unknowable.

In a way, it’s anti-journalism.

I am hardly the only stick-in-the-mud to observe that the impending takeover of Crimea, a precise piece of geopolitical logistics and confrontation with a full menu of international implications – journalistic red meat – has been blown away by a story with no evident meaning, other than the likely bleak fate of most onboard.

It is, of course, an ideal story for the current journalism era because it costs nothing. Nobody has to go anywhere. Nobody has to cover the wreckage and the recovery. Not only is the story pretty much all just theories – but theories are cheap.

And according to Wolff, the proof that this approach to filling airtime works can be summed up with one provocative question, for which he clearly already has an answer in mind: “But you’re still obsessed, aren’t you?”

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