Balloon Boy's Media Frenzy
Leave it to the bizarre to bring out the best and worst in all of us. And this week's boy-lost-in-a-balloon is about as bizarre as it gets. Fortunately, the story had a happy if somewhat wacky ending, but at least no one got hurt. (It could've been worse.)
Let me dispense with one thing right away. One reader wrote to complain and ask why we sent a news bulletin out on this story. We are sparing of bulletins for this very reason. If we send one every two months, I'd be surprised. Yesterday's story was worth a bulletin because it involved a flying machine—and that balloon was just that—on a runaway flight that looked like it was going straight into Denver International's Class B. That likely would have disrupted if not entirely shutdown DIA and that's a big news story, hence the bulletin.
But back to the bizarre. Watching the coverage, colleague Jeb Burnside noticed that one proposal—mentioned in passing, we hope-was to have an ultralight approach the balloon and try to tether or weight it down. Imagine how that would have accelerated the story to the speed of heat. Continuing with the worst, the cable networks were still flogging this story the morning after. But with 24 hours of air time to fill, who can expect anything less?
Of course, the cable networks and the people who watch them—mea culpa—are to a degree responsible for the sickness of live-chase coverage, if not the event itself. I say that because the pater familias of this somewhat loopy family, Richard Heene, has some reality TV experience and one of the sons was heard to make a remark suggesting this one done for publicity.
If that's not the case, the kids will have some cool stories and videos to show their kids. If an investigation reveals it was done by design, at the very least, Mr. Heene should be presented with a large bill to pay for the cost of all those deputies and firefighters running around in a panic chasing this thing. First responders are in harm's way just in the act of responding, not to mention drawing them away from other critical duties.
Let's just hope that wasn't the case so we can return now to our regularly scheduled hour of liberal/conservative exploding heads.
SUNDAY P.M. UPDATE:
Local authorities now say their investigation reveals that the balloon caper was a planned hoax. Let loose the dogs of law enforcement.