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Balloon Boy

Balloon Boy

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Published by clemwork
media manipulation
media manipulation

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Published by: clemwork on Sep 13, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Emerald GilleranBalloon Boy SagaSept. 13, 2010On Oct 15, 2009 an air balloon resembling a space craft took flight from a FortCollins Colorado residential backyard and a 911 call suspecting a 6-year-old boy was on board, led the nation and the world to tune in and watch this drifting balloon for 2 hours.The balloon traveled across a couple counties and landed 12 miles northeast of Denver International Airport-without a boy aboard.Falcon Heene, nicknamed balloon boy later by the media, was safe and hiding inthe Heene home all along. That wasn’t enough to get anyone questioning but later thatevening on Larry King Live, balloon boy busted his dad’s bubble. When asked why hedidn’t come out, Falcon responded, “You said, um, we did this for a show.”The next day Falcon vomits on the Today show and Good Morning America.Skeptics say probably due to all the pressure and questions. The comment from the boygot people wondering: was this a hoax and a publicity stunt?The dad, Richard Heene, tried to cover up Falcon’s comment by saying the‘show’ he was referring to was the news stations and all of the questions the media wasasking Falcon. Not many fell for it though, and on Oct. 18, 2009, Sheriff Jim Aldersonannounced that he thought the stunt was for sure a hoax, and the parents of balloon boywould likely face several felony charges. Richard pleaded guilty to charges of attempting
to influence a public servant. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and his wife, Mayumi,was sentenced to 20 days on weekends. Richard was also forced to pay $36,000 inrestitution.So media critics want to know, where did we as journalists go wrong in the balloon boy saga? And was it the media or the number of online platforms and such to post information?The media could have done a better job at the vetting process and done moreextensive background research on this family. Had they done so, it would have beendiscovered much sooner that the parents met in acting school in Hollywood, and both had pursued careers in acting. The family was shown in two episodes of “Wife Swap” andthey were also known as amateur scientists and storm chasers, which the couple oftenincluded the children in.At the time of the hoax, the Heenes were in the process of trying to get a realityTV show. Once this was discovered, questions were raised regarding the separation of  journalism and reality TV and raised concerns about the exploitation of children in thenews stories.Alex Boese, author of The Museum of Hoaxes, said in an interview for NPR, “themedia can be so easily manipulated in a way, by some sensational story, and onecriticism people have been having is that suddenly everybody was focused on this little boy in a balloon. And yet if you think about it, terrible things are happening every daylike starvation in Africa and people without health insurance. And yet just one little storyattracts the attention of the world.”Boese also refers to hoaxes in two types, the first type he says is the hoaxer who
as designed the hoax to be exposed so that they try to fool a victim into believingsomething absolutely ridiculous and at some point they reveal what they’ve done in a sortof “gotchya moment.” They expose someone’s credulity or they expose someone’s lowstandards of judgment.The second type is a category in which Boese would put Balloon Boy into.“Where the hoaxer actually was just trying to get away from something he or she didn’twant to be exposed. In many cases, it’s a criminal activity and so they get caught.”During this same interview for NPR, Howard Kurtz, a media reporter for the WashingtonPost said he thinks stunts like balloon boy makes the media look like morons. “They willfind the weak spot in journalists which is live television. People watch the stories unfoldand because the default of media is to put up pictures if they are sexy enough- and in themean time we’ll try to gather the facts.”He feels that it’s harder to fool a newspaper, which has sometime like 8 or 9 hoursto assemble a story and check the facts. “In this occasion, I’m not going to come downtoo hard on the cable shows because the authorities had to take this serious because theremay have been a little boy in the balloon,” he said.Kurtz also feels that it would have been hard for any producer to say, “Wait a minute wedon’t have all the facts here.” He feels that the media and everyone else can cut theHeene’s slack during the two hours that the world watched a balloon float across thescreen, but not after.It basically gave the Heenes exactly what they wanted: face time. On Larry King,CBS, ABC, and NBC.I really do feel that the media should have done a better job at seeing the red flags

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