Friday, October 16, 2009

Balloon boy shows how gullible news people have become

I never thought I'd see the day when a major network led with a non-story.

Then again, we have a US Senator who used to be on Saturday Night Live and a former Congressman dancing to "Wild Thing" on Dancing with the Stars. So nothing surprises me anymore.

Stories like the balloon boy and Octomom tell me that meaningful news is just about dead. Along with responsible journalism. The battle to be first instead of right, the obsession with throwing anything on the air that might be compelling outweighs news value and importance to the viewer.

Seriously, we have soldiers dying overseas, a raging health care debate, millions out of work, and all sorts of stuff that directly impacts our lives... and the important story of the day is something that sure looks like a hoax? (Check out the kid's interview on CNN if you don't believe me.)

There's a reason you check facts before you put anything on the air. And there's a reason you pick a lead story that is the most important of the day...not the biggest watercooler story of the day. And going wall to wall with this kind of stuff is as bad as covering a car chase.

Here's the scary part; people looking for 15 minutes of fame are now aware that the media will jump at anything. Then they can turn those 15 minutes into a cover story on a tabloid, or a reality show appearance. (The parents of balloon boy already had two of those on their resume.)

Check and double check and triple check before you put anything on the air. If the story sounds like it was made up, it probably is.


Anonymous said...

Gotta respectfully disagree, there are bigger themes at play.

A) Foreign objects flying through the air post-9/11 are a big deal. People want to know that we can monitor anything potentially dangerous in our air space.

B) The chance the boy was in the balloon. How do you know the stations didn't do everything they could to vet the story? I'm sure law enforcement also attempted to find this out, unsuccessfully.

C) The family has been in the news before (although admittedly this is a weaker theme).

Also, my local news did not lead with this at 11. Are you objecting to live coverage of the cable news networks? How could they not cover something as visual as this?

-The Grape said...

Sorry, don't buy the 9/11 argument for a balloon.

A major network led with this during the evening news last night.

Frankly, I can't see an intelligent viewer being "riveted" to cable news for hours watching a balloon. If anything it was worth a fifteen second v/o at the end of a newscast.

The problem is that once one network goes wall to wall, the lemmings follow. No one has the guts to say no.

Anonymous said...

What if you were part of the crew sent/ordered to cover it?

joey flash said...

i disagree with the grape, for once. balloon boy was our generation's baby jessica, and for a brief moment brought us all together in wonderous amazement.

the sheer unusuality (probably not a real word, but i'm just a photog so i hope you can let me slide) of the event made it newsworthy.

and it's better than a traffic accident or drug shooting...

-The Grape said...

Don't ever say, "I'm just a photog."

You guys rule.

Anonymous said...

Not checking facts is another reason why mainstream news - under pressure to be first at expense of getting it right - continues to lose credibility. This translates to the downturn in readers & viewers most are experiencing. Balloon Boy and Rush Limbaugh NFL controversy are two of more recent examples.