The disappearance of a submarine that was taking billionaires on a trip to the Titanic shipwreck has dominated the headlines of international media outlets, raising questions about the criteria and ethics of news selection.
The submarine, operated by OceanGate Expeditions, went missing on Sunday in the Atlantic Ocean off Canada, with five people on board, including British billionaire Hamish Harding and Pakistani tycoon Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman.
The search and rescue operation, which involves the US Coast Guard and other agencies, has been hampered by bad weather and technical difficulties. The submarine has a limited oxygen supply that could last for about four days.
The fate of the missing sub and its wealthy passengers has captured the attention of the global media, with many outlets giving it prominent coverage and updates. Some critics have argued that the media is obsessed with the story because of the celebrity status and wealth of the people involved, as well as the allure and mystery of the Titanic shipwreck.
They have also pointed out that there are other important news stories that are being overshadowed or ignored by the media.
Others have defended the media’s coverage of the missing sub, saying that it is a legitimate and compelling human interest story that appeals to a wide audience. They have also noted that the media is not a monolith and that different outlets have different priorities and perspectives.
One example of a missing tourist sub in the past is the Pisces III, which sank in 1973 off the coast of Ireland while laying a transatlantic telephone cable. The two-man crew was trapped at a depth of 1,575 feet for 76 hours before being rescued by a Royal Navy submarine. It was the deepest submarine rescue in history at the time.
The Pisces III had a life support system that could last for 100 hours. The rescue operation involved cutting the submersible free from the cable and attaching a lifting line to bring it to the surface.
The media coverage of that incident was not as extensive or sensational as today’s Titanic missing sub, partly because of the technological limitations and media landscape at the time. However, some observers have suggested that it also reflects a change in news values and public interest over time.