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.