Friday, October 16, 2009
Yesterday will go down in history as the most embarrassing day in cable news history. Shortly before 3PM EST, all news stopped and the networks switched their coverage to Falcon Heene, a six year old boy allegedly floating over Colorado in a homemade helium balloon.
The anchors were orgiastic in their reporting. MSNBC’s chatterbox, Tamron Hall, yakked without taking a breath, her voice sounding like she was calling cattle futures back home in Ft. Worth. Sidekick David Shuster, weighed in from time to time to tell viewers how neighbors said the boy’s parents were “amateur scientists” and “storm chasers” and the Keene’s backyard “had trees.” CNN’s Kyra Phillips, with her head lowered in mock grief reported the boy had “fallen out of the balloon somewhere over Colorado.” Her sidekick Rich Sanchez, demanded to know, “where then is the body?” FOX’s Shepard Smith said, “if the boy is still alive, this is a wild ride he will never soon forget.” And so it went, hour after hour. The story of the boy in the balloon was so important that the three cable news networks didn’t even break for commercials. Something not seen since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Of course no one in their right mind actually thought this homemade silver balloon – resembling a Jiffy Pop popcorn popper, was sufficiently air worthy to hoist a six year old up to heights of 7,000 feet. Photographed from an phalanx of news helicopter, the balloon yawed at one edge and appeared to be dangerously at risk to deflate at any moment. But this didn’t register with the anchors reporting the story – they were simply giddy from inhaling the same helium that filled the boy’s personal balloon.
Three long hours later, at approximately 6PM EST, news reports started to trickle in confirming what many expected to hear all along: the six year old boy was never in the balloon to begin with. The balloon boy was safe! By 9PM, the Heene family appeared on Larry King’s CNN program and young Falcon Heene revealed the startling truth: cable news had been punked.