Friday, October 16, 2009

Hot Air


Today's tone deaf award goes to CNN's blog which has just offered Balloon Boy: The Beginning.

Shoot me now.


Octopus has more. Seems like CNN milked this for MORE than it was worth.

I can think of no better demonstration of the American news media’s general suckitude than yesterday’s wall-to-wall coverage of “balloon boy” Falcon Heene. Network and cable news alike were consumed by this latest “Timmy’s in the well” story, but no one milked this non-story for more than it was worth than CNN.

Wolf Blitzer’s coverage was typical. He interviewed “hot air balloon expert Craig Kennedy”, who quickly observed:
But, doing some rough calculations with our friends at the SuperiAire balloon port here in Albuquerque, that balloon probably contained about 2,000 cubic feet of helium, which would, at our altitudes in that Fort Collins area, give the equivalent of roughly 100 pounds of lift. 

So, I think it was a pretty good bet that this child did not actually get lifted by this balloon. So, the question is, where is he?

At which point Blitzer said something to the effect of, “oh yeah great point maybe he’s in the house or something but now walk us through this process here ....”

To which Kennedy responded a second time:

It wasn't stable in its flight, like it had a payload below it. So, for that reason, I think, fairly early on, we felt like there was no child aboard, that there was nobody on board that balloon.

And the next complete sentence out of Blitzer’s mouth was:

BLITZER: Well, let me just ask you this question. If the little boy was on the balloon, but fell out in the course of these two hours where it was simply flying around, that would have been obvious to those who came upon the balloon once it landed, isn't that right?

Gah. Then Chad Myers weighs in:

MYERS: Tom, I just -- or I just wonder, of the lift that this thing had and the size of this payload, there was never supposed to be anyone in this. I mean, this was not supposed to be even for a small adult or anything. This was not for a human flight, correct?

Oh fer crying out loud, people. Are you even listening to your own guest? Kennedy makes his point one more time, with feeling:

So, this little tiny balloon of 2,000 cubic feet with a lift of only 100 pounds, I don't see how it ever lifted a child in the first place.

Got it now? There was no child in the balloon! CNN Correspondent Tom Foreman replies:

FOREMAN: You know, and it's an interesting point you're raising here.

I want to look at this graphic for a minute. You're saying, if I understand you correctly, that, basically, the upward lift of this from the beginning was only about 100 pounds. If you had a child in here who was 50 pounds, you're already stressing the lift.

Yes! Yes! Praise the lord and pass the microphone, someone in the Situation Room finally got it. No child was on that balloon! Ever! It was scientifically UN-possible!

But Blitzer couldn’t let it go. After subjecting Kennedy to more questioning, to hearing an interview with a neighbor, etc., he breaks down:

BLITZER: And, so, just to be precise, Craig -- and you're -- you're the balloon expert for us -- if you had to make a conclusion on all of the information you have seen so far, you would conclude that there was -- the little boy was never in that balloon?

KENNEDY: I would hope that that child was not in the balloon. And I would say physically, it -- it is possible that perhaps the child made a very short flight. 

I'm certainly hoping that that's not the outcome. But seeing no hatches open that would have suggested a departure, I don't think that child was ever aboard that -- that machine.

Well, anything’s possible. Jesus could have swooped down on a white cloud and ushered young Falcon off the machine. I mean, seriously.

Blitzer and his producers at The Situation Room were given plenty warning that this was likely a hoax of a story, but with another hour and a half or so to fill and only Evander Holyfield’s reaction to President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize in the sidelines, they couldn't drop it and move along to something else. With dogged determination they stuck with their story, dammit. It was painful to watch.

Of course, the ultimate embarrassment of the entire American news media came later last night with this moment on Larry King Live:

In a later interview with CNN's "Larry King Live," Falcon said he heard his parents call for him from the garage.

When asked by his father on-air why he didn't respond, the boy replied, "You guys said we did this for the show."

Ah, “the show.” Apparently the Heenes have been featured not once but twice on the ABC reality series “Wife Swap.”

Did CNN and the rest of the news media just get pwned by some reality show publicity chasers? Oh, noes!

Or ... and here's a scary thought, did American viewers just get pwned by CNN, who blanketed their programming with wall-to-wall coverage of a non-story, then revealed it was in all likelihood a hoax later on their own cable network.

Either way, we all lose.