ATLANTA — Flying high in the ratings thanks to its relentlessly groundless coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, CNN is now speculating in purely hypothetical news programming.
“We couldn’t sit back and let Fox News claim a monopoly on fueling speculation and filling air with hairbrained ideas,” said Jeff Zucker, CNN Worldwide’s president. “If people don’t turn to CNN for hard news anymore, I’d like to think we still might have a shot at being the most trusted name in speculation.”
Later in the same press conference, Zucker sent up some trial balloons to test out new concepts for network specials. “Imagine if Dr. Sanjay Gupta uncovered Amelia Earhart’s second life as airborne pot smuggler in Mexico. It’d be bigger than his first ‘WEED’ documentary—and that’s without any confirmatory evidence.
“Or—and I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here,” Zucker continued, “but someone mentioned the possibility of a holographic Wolf Blitzer exposing how the moon landing was faked using an early prototype of CNN’s magic wall.”
Though only notional at the moment, finding time in the network’s crowded schedule for more conjecture is proving difficult. BuzzFeed analyzed last Wednesday’s news hole from 4-10 p.m. and found that only 15 broadcast minutes remained open to non-Flight-370 theorizing.
Morning host Chris Cuomo defended the network’s bloviating. Said Cuomo of the task in front of him and his CNN colleagues, “The job is to have more questions than there are answers, because simply not enough is known.”
Questions of journalistic integrity aside, Cuomo sought to answer critics’ concern by assuring them that CNN would “do its best to give the [stuff] we pull out of our asses the smell of substantiated fact.”
Hence CNN’s online article that lays out four completely made-up scenarios experts have “talked about.” The “facts” and “analyses” that accompany each scenario are filled with statements like, “So far, there are no known indications…” and “there’s an ‘off chance’ that…” before the article concludes with “another unanswerable question.”
“I guess there are two ways our latest flight of fancy could turn out,” Zucker offered. “If we’re right and rampant speculation is the next big thing, it could land us in first place. If not, our ratings could crash as soon as the audience realizes more levelheaded fiction can be found on the SyFy channel.”
He reminds viewers to “Check local listings for airtimes of upcoming specials. Or, better yet, don’t look it up. Just trust us.”