CNN

CNN's decision to devote heavy coverage to the missing Malaysia Airlines airplane has paid off with higher viewer numbers, said Brian Stelter, Reliable Sources host, on Sunday's show.

Stelter noted that in the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic, CNN cable news "total day" viewership grew from 97,000 during the period Dec. 30 to March 6, the day before the plane disappeared, to 196,000 from March 7 to March 26 -- more than doubling its audience.


Even with the growth in viewer numbers, however, Fox News continued to lead in the key age group with MSNBC coming in third.

Reliable Sources' guests James Fallows, national correspondent with The Atlantic, and Andrew Beaujon, Poynter's news editor, talked about the media's coverage of the missing airplane that has drawn heavy criticism.

Fallows said in a way, the story of the flight is like war coverage and grips part of the public. "It's of undeniable human interest -- human and intellectual and geostrategic [interest.]" But he added he would encourage CNN to bring on more of the experts who can dismiss "the nutty things" that are part of the speculation around the flight's disappearance and discuss instead the range of real possibilities.

The high ratings for the flight coverage suggest a widening gulf between media critics and news consumers, Beaujon said. Average weekly ratings for flight coverage are on par and may have exceeded that for the 2012 presidential elections, he said, and points to the large audience that wants coverage of Flight MH370.