The missing Malaysian plane is a made-for-TV mystery where the public's hunger for the story seems inversely proportional to the amount of solid leads for solving the case.
The story led ABC's "Good Morning America'' again Tuesday, when Bob Woodruff reported from a Malaysian fishing village, interviewing a man who said he saw a jet flying low over the water around the time Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing March 8 with 239 people aboard. Anchor George Stephanopoulos immediately brought in aviation expert Stephen Ganyard, who dismissed the eyewitness account as essentially worthless.
The circular passage typifies a story where clues and theories come to light and are passed over or debunked _ the stolen passports, the oil slick on the water, the seismic event, lithium batteries _ leaving people still searching for both a jetliner and the truth.
"The information coming in from the Malaysian authorities has been, literally, all over the map,'' a frustrated Anderson Cooper said on CNN.
Yet long-struggling CNN, Cooper's nightly newscast in particular, has been among the biggest beneficiaries of public interest in the story. Since the plane went missing while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, and CNN began nearly wall-to-wall coverage, its prime-time ratings have jumped 68 percent over the year's average, even more among younger viewers that advertisers are keen to reach, the Nielsen company said. Twice last week, Cooper's show more than doubled its typical audience.
Seventeen of the 20 most popular articles on the BBC's website last week were about the plane, bringing in more traffic to the British news agency's site than any story since the Japanese tsunami in 2011.
"Where are you?'' was the top headline in Germany's top-selling tabloid Bild on Monday. The story appears on nearly every hourly bulletin on CCTV in China, where most of the plane's passengers were from, with a heavy emphasis on Chinese navy ships and aircraft involved in the search. Hong Kong's Phoenix TV was covering the story around-the-clock, often citing reports by overseas media.
The number of Twitter messages about the plane peaked at nearly 1 million per day shortly after it went missing, with daily tweets in the 200,000 to 400,000 range much of last week, the social media site said.
Rock star Courtney Love even joined the discussion on Facebook, posting a satellite ocean picture with the suggestion that it revealed an oil slick. More than 10,000 people had ``liked'' it by midday Tuesday.