Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Huge burn on MSNBC

Wow. I just saw on TVNewser that NBC and CNN cleaned up at the AP's National Headliner Awards. NBC received nine awards. CNN received eight. MSNBC received one.

Why is this a burn on MSNBC? Here's the thing: one of CNN's awards went to "Paula Zahn Now" for Best Newscast, for her "Jet Blue Plane/Tornado/Hurricane Rita."

Who remembers the tale of JetBlue Flight 292? September 21, 2005: JetBlue flight 292 takes off from Burbank, realizes its landing gear is stuck, and circles tensely for three hours burning through fuel before luckily landing safely at LAX. The plane may be broken but DirectTV works just fine, which means that passengers end up being glued to their seat-back TVs, where MSNBC is reporting on the scary life-and-death situation, live.

Did you catch that? MSNBC. Back in September I called it "The Official Network of Watching The Plane You're On Almost Crash." This is because JetBlue doesn't carry CNN — something I figured out on a Sunday morning flight to California, confused as to why I couldn't find "Reliable Sources" on my dial (it does carry Fox; no idea why no one was watching). Either way, MSNBC owned this story — not only was it a huge part of the unfolding drama ("We were watching our own demise on TV!"), but Flight 292 passengers happened to include several NBC Universal employees returning to New York, which meant that MSNBC scored the first passenger interview with passenger Todd Schwartz, husband of MSNBC media relations director Leslie Zeller-Schwartz, who patched him immediately through to anchor Allison Stewart ("Glad you're alive, honey, thanks for the get").

Okay, so they've got a massive exclusive and they're an integral part of the story but — get this — there's more. Paula Zahn's report actually got a major fact wrong: she reported that the plane was dumping fuel. The JetBlue aircraft in question, however, was an Airbus 320 — and the Airbus 320 has no mechanism for dumping fuel. Zahn was incorrect. MSNBC, on the other hand, reported that the Airbus 320 could not so dump, instead creating drag with the wings to burn more fuel. MSNBC, as we now know, was correct.

Yet CNN still got the award. Oh, MSNBC. That must really mean you sucked.

Passengers Learned About Landing Gear Problem From MSNBC [TVNewser]
Transcript: Paula Zahn Now, Sept. 21/05 [CNN]
JetBlue Emergency Landing* [You Tube]

*Ironically, featuring CNN and Fox.

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