Wait, Wasn’t There a Kid in a Balloon Just a Minute Ago?
Madness abounded in both social media and televised media today when news broke that a boy in Colorado was trapped inside of an out-of-control experimental helium balloon constructed by his father. Of course, we all know how it played out, and perhaps we all should have been a bit more skeptical at the prospect of a child accidentally getting onto a balloon and intentionally releasing the rope that tethered it to the ground.
I was busy at work and missed most of the story, only catching on when people were already calling it a hoax when the balloon landed and was unoccupied. However, there was still some time where there were doubts as to whether the boy had simply run off or if he’d fallen out of the balloon mid-flight. CNN even reported a Sheriff Deputy’s claim to have seen something fall off the balloon, and eventually found a speck of something on footage of the flight that “could have been the boy.”
This was the story they were playing up as I was in the gym. For the first ninety minutes of my workout it was all they were covering, with no commercial breaks as far as I could tell. They showed that footage and circled this indistinguishable object that could have contained a small child, and I was mortified that I had bought into the premature assumption that we’d all been had.
Then I went down to the weight room (which doesn’t have any televisions) for no longer than ten to fifteen minutes. I came back up, and they’d gone to commercial. I figured, well Hell, they’ll break in if they find the kid.
Then they talked about health care. And other news items. And everything else but this kid that they were speculating had plummeted to his death, which now didn’t even warrant a mention on the crawl of the news ticker that ran on the bottom of their screen.
It wasn’t until I called Brian P. Dermody (co-host of “Living Under Marshall Law” and a damn fine human being) that I found out the boy had survived and had been hiding all this time in a box in an attic. I assumed he was okay, but then I got to thinking about how wildly irresponsible CNN had been in its coverage. I mean, it’s one thing to speculate, but to tease that and then suddenly drop it without further mention?
Then I got it. CNN got caught with its proverbial pants down. They were embarrassed, and so instead of acknowledging the hoax they were pretending as if they incident never happened. It was like CNN got drunk but not blackout drunk at a party and hooked up with that chick that sort of looks like a dude, right in front of everyone, then pretended to have no idea what everyone was talking about for the next three weeks. “What? That never happened. I never put anything in her balloon.”
CNN was never been a bastion of fine journalism, but this is yet another item in an expanding list of poor examples of journalism. Jon Stewart recently ranted about it on “The Daily Show” (video here), and as ridiculous as his delivery was, there was no exaggeration in any of the accusations – or should I say observations – he made.
Ah well. At least we all got a good chuckle out of the phrase “Wife Swap” showing up in headlines all afternoon.