Feature

How 'Balloon Boy' fooled the media

Why did the news establishment give the Falcon Heene hoax such breathless, blanket coverage?

The Balloon Boy hoax is undeniably news now: Falcon Heene’s parents -- who reportedly planned the stunt two weeks in advance -- are facing criminal charges. But the question remains: Why did the TV news channels cover a runaway silver balloon for endless hours last Thursday with so few facts to report? (Watch part of Fox News' early reporting)

Reality TV has rotted media standards: The networks’ decision to wring melodrama out of the Heene family’s fears and unsubstantiated claims, says Frazier Moore of The Associated Press, is "endemic of the more and more seductive urge to dismiss truth, responsibility and other traditional values in favor of hustling for fame."
‘Balloon Boy’ reminder that TV is full of shams

Ratings trump ethics: "This wasn't really about journalism as an ethical construct, but journalism as a business," says David Folkenflik of National Public Radio. And the transfixing image of the careening, possibly deadly mylar balloon was a good sell: "Humans being human, we wanted to watch. And the cable news executives were desperate to help us stay glued to their channels."
Balloon Boy’s transfixing effect on the media

Non-news? Is there any other kind anymore?
Especially in the age of Twitter, says Diane Mermigas on True/Slant, expedient gossip has replaced cautious reporting: "We are hopelessly caught up in a vortex of high-pitched overblown, overdone, non-news that encourages the savvy ... to use other people, social media and the press to advance their own agenda."
Balloon Boy Underscores Media Folly: We’re All Digitally Duped

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