For the ratings-challenged network, the jokes have probably been worth it.
Bloomberg Businessweek's Eric Chemi illustrated on Tuesday just how big of a boon the story has been for CNN.
The network's coverage of the missing plane drew weekly average ratings that are roughly equal with the 2012 presidential election. Its latest ratings are also the highest since the week of the Boston Marathon bombings, when CNN also provided some pretty dubious coverage.
According to Media Bistro, CNN's total day viewing soared 82 percent from March 8 until March 23.
Figures like that help explain why people at CNN have been so dismissive of the recent criticism. It also explains why the ratings-obsessed Bill O'Reilly, who's long reigned as the king of cable news, has been aggressively critical of CNN, even though the network continues to get crushed by Fox News.