The Balloon Boy story has ruled the airwaves for almost a week now, as the Balloon Boy story follows the predictable media pattern. As the Balloon Boy story moves into the legal system, and the Heenes face charges for their hoax, they also have the media spotlight that they craved. The Balloon Boy story is certain to go on in some form for many more weeks now, if not months, as the Heenes go through the justice system. And as with most media-driven scandals, the Balloon Boy story has inspired the usual media debates as to whether the media should have covered it as much.
The Balloon Boy story went from a possible tragedy, to likely hoax, to media overexposure in almost record time. But Richard Heene and his family made themselves into the ideal candidates for this kind of attention. Heene’s suspected hoax of the Balloon Boy saga was likely designed to get a reality show, even if it put 6-year-old Falcon Heene in the position of lying to the press, and hiding in his attic.
In the reality show world, that just shows initiative. But before Richard Heene can reap those benefits, he has to avoid jail time. The Balloon Boy story will now go into courthouses, as the family faces charges of lying to authorities, and could possible face federal charges down the road. This only gives the news channels more reason to cover the Balloon Boy saga – and then scold themselves for covering it.
Without fail, stories like this eventually turn into a debate on whether it is the media’s fault for covering it so much, and whether they are dumbing-down the nation by doing so. Yet it’s the media themselves that ask these questions, rather than choosing to ignore the story. Such contradictions are highlighted by The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Bill Maher and the late night comics all the time – though of course, they are all off this week.
By next week, people will likely have moved beyond asking whether the Balloon Boy story was overexposed. It should be out of the headlines by then, or at least not at the front of the headlines. But the legal details should keep the story alive, and more ex-associates of Richard Heene will probably emerge to make him look worse.
Months down the line, the Balloon Boy story will probably still be alive in some fashion. By then, if the legal troubles end quick enough, Richard Heene and his family could be able to star in their own reality show after all. This is an age where Rod Blagojevich could be on Celebrity Apprentice, despite facing an indictment, so the Heenes can certainly get their own show at some point too.
If Richard Heene’s grand scheme for TV fame actually works like that, then the media will only have themselves to blame.
Ledger-Enquirer- “Balloon boy charges may not come until next week”
Los Angeles Times- “My kid, the rating bonanza: beyond the ‘balloon boy’ saga”