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Balloon Boy's Media Frenzy

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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.

Comments (11)

Most of this country loves this kind of junk. i understand the need for a bulletin because it should have been much worse if it did shut down kden. i think this should also be the last we hear about this on avweb as well as other media outlets. publicizing this just makes people more interested in heene and his family which is exactly what he wants. the best thing to do is forgedabouit' yes, thats one word and no i'm not from Jersey :)

Posted by: MICHAEL SULLIVAN | October 16, 2009 8:06 PM    Report this comment

Concerning your last note on "let loose the dogs of law enforcement", the punitive prospects [often so readily vizualized] are far too popular. (In saying this I am not disagreeing with your comment). The family really needs help -if only to protect the kids. The word "help" needs to be stressed. Jail time would probably be of little real benefit to any concerned -although it might make some feel like they accomplished something worthwhile by jailing the offenders. Mind that jail is so very "easy" as an apparent solution although little -if indeed anything - would be accomplished. Why punish the children just to get at the parents?

Posted by: Charles Elliot | October 19, 2009 9:13 AM    Report this comment

Leaving aside the pros and cons of sending a bulletin, I do appreciate it when AvWeb writes a prompt breaking story on the RSS feed when the mainstream media pick up an aviation-related story. I can usually detect that the mainstream media are mangling the aviation parts of the story, and I like being able to that those parts in unmangled form from AvWeb.

Posted by: James DeLaHunt | October 19, 2009 12:13 PM    Report this comment

Thanx Paul, I'm glad you jumped on this story. I would have missed it without your quick fingers. I was horrorfied during the event. Now, as all of you, I'm pissed! I wonder at gene pool and the power plant. That sucker really moves!

Posted by: Larry Fries | October 20, 2009 11:32 AM    Report this comment

PS Im not expecting that last post to be posted. I just had to be different :-) I've got to be me !

Posted by: Patty Haley | October 20, 2009 12:34 PM    Report this comment

Ooops.. I suppose the "last post" was not received for some reason. What I said was " If you are born into this world, you get a ticket to the freak show, and if you are born into the United States, you get a front row seat" George Carlin...

Only in America!

Posted by: Patty Haley | October 20, 2009 12:37 PM    Report this comment

Keep up the "news bulletin" ability and attitude. Thank you. We trust your judgment - - or we would not be AVweb Subscribers - - for very long.

Posted by: BILL SCOTT | October 20, 2009 4:33 PM    Report this comment

They should throw the book at this family and put that creep where he'll never again see sunlight. I haven't heard anyone mention this but what if someone had gotten killed, thank God they didn't, in chasing that thing. Would they have pressed murder charges?

Posted by: Scott Mallard | October 20, 2009 10:18 PM    Report this comment

>>They should throw the book at this family and put that creep where he'll never again see sunlight<<

I guess I agree, although I don't think he needs a life sentence, exactly. But there need to be consequences for people who do things like this and placing the welfare of the children between them and paying those consequences strikes me as just wrong.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | October 22, 2009 4:46 PM    Report this comment

A HEAVY fine and consultation or rehab. The stress on "balloon boy" will never fade for him. He, already thinks he let the family down. Daddy and mommy Heene should be aware of the harm they have done. Bet they do not have a clue or care.

Posted by: Larry Fries | October 22, 2009 6:06 PM    Report this comment

Let us see not what the "dogs" of law enforcement do so much as what the court might do -IF and when charges are actually laid.

The dogs will undoubtedly do their job, and the court will then evaluate how well and how appropriately they did that job. The dogs had best act with wisdom!

If it is proven an offence has occured, punitive approaches should take second place to more helpful solutions. It will not benefit the children to jail (at considerable cost to the public purse) the father and/or mother (if eventually found guilty of some offence). The children would then grow up with the stigma of a "jailbird parent(s)", and the family might be deprived of income probably needed at home.

There are too many people in jail now...and that alone demonstrates the dismal failure of the system.

My friend LW Fries makes some excellent points... but I'll bet there is a (semi-consicious) deep sense of dread and unease haunting the parents in that family -perhaps now hidden by a certain amount of bravado. Believe me, the children will detect this -and it will be of no benefit to them.

It is quite possible that the parents need professional help.

If the parents are tried in advance (in the media) assuredly it will be difficult to find impartiality.

Posted by: Charles Elliot | October 22, 2009 7:13 PM    Report this comment

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