After the massive earthquake just off Japan’s Pacific coast sent tsunami waves rolling toward the United States Friday, the major cable news networks went to the journalistic equivalent of Defcon 2: They rolled with breaking news coverage that crowded out most everything else, but they didn’t pull their commercials.
In a sign of the gravity of the story, the Fox News Channel even preempted Glenn Beck. (However, the Beckster had been on vacation this week, so Fox viewers weren’t really deprived of a chalk-board explanation of how Alcorn and Al Qaeda might have been behind the Japanese disaster.)
Once again, CNN’s inherent advantage in international coverage was on display, as the network had early live shots from staffers on the ground in Japan that neither Fox nor MSNBC could match. However, all of the cable nets had tons of unnervingly compelling video supplied by Japan’s robust TV news media.
Also once again, covering a potential tsunami turned out to be like nailing down Jello-O, with hours of anticipatory reporting on a potential disaster along the West Coast that, thankfully, never happened. (The cable nets underwent a similar exercise last year after a tsunami threat to Hawaii.)
The award for the stupidest comment of the day – actually, the stupidest comment of the year so far in cable news – goes to MSNBC’s Cenk Uygur, who opined how the Japanese must feel beleaguered, what with Friday’s quake and being the target of two nuclear bombs back in 1945.
Conflating an unanticipated natural disaster and the brutal ending of a war 65 years ago – a war that Japanese leaders started and pursued with murderous efficiency – was silly enough. But Uygur then compounded his sin by pointing to problems at two quake-damaged nuclear plants to defend his comparison.
Even in the left-leaning halls of MSNBC, people ought to appreciate the difference between Hiroshima and Three Mile Island.