The ongoing mystery of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has brought chaos to China’s media sphere, which is brimming with confusing information, comments and rumors. While most netizens as well as mainstream media frequently post updates about the search for the plane, they themselves become an object of discussion as well. It started with criticism directed at reporters and journalists, who were accused for harming the relatives of those on the flight by conducting interviews and taking pictures showing their sorrowful faces. As Cao Baoyin 曹宝印, the director of the Media Studies Institute at The Beijing News posted on Sina Weibo:
My media colleagues, where are your professionalism, professional ethics and compassion as a human being at least? You point your camera at the relatives and chase them around; you ignore their feelings just in order to get invalid information. What a shame! Is it necessary to interview them? Please go and report more important new and move the camera away from their faces!
In response, some media analysts and professionals have stated that it is unfair to criticize these journalists, and it is actually unethical to stop them from covering this news. Some have also answered back sarcastically:
Every time something happens, someone from the academia always jumps out and criticizes the media. Putting it mildly, this is pedantic; putting it seriously, this is an inclination to want to be others’ conceited teacher.
Not only journalists on the frontline have been criticized. State media as well as their social media posts have also been targeted because of their sensational coverage. For example, the official Sina Weibo account of the People’s Daily frequently uploaded very emotional posts:
239 lives, 154 fellow citizens, please come back soon!… We persist, we made a promise not to give up. Whatever the result, we are united, waiting for miracle! Waiting for you to come back home!
Peng Xiaoyun 彭晓芸, a current affairs commentator commented on such sensationalism:
People’s Daily‘s Qiongyao [a love story writer] tone on Weibo is a secondary disaster of this natural/man-made disaster, and will generate secondary damage psychologically…Such type of Chicken Soup for the Soul is disgusting for those worrying relatives. This is just a basic psychological principle.
Some observers have expressed strong criticism of the Malaysian search and rescue effort. As Phoenix TV, a Hong Kong-based TV station posted:
What does Malaysia have to hide?! The initial rescue focused on the Strait of Malacca; every time Vietnam found suspect material, Malaysia confidently denied their veracity.
Worry, speculation, anger, sorrow, criticism as well as other emotions are all mixed together with rumors, news and attempted clarifications. Such discussions will probably continue until hopefully the mystery of what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight 370 is revealed.