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US News Media: Bad PR for Americans?

Wolf Blitzer was interviewing the family familiar with appearing on television and reality shows when the cat was let out of the bag. Wolf didn’t throw a curveball but was definitely taken aback by what Falcon Heene, the now world-renowned 6-year-old daredevil who apparently took flight in a homemade hot air balloon Thursday, October 15, said on live television:

“Um, you guys said, that mm, we did this for the show.”

Father Richard immediately mumbled “Man,” and mother Mayumi followed with a subtle “No.” Dad then turned adamantly defensive and became “appalled” at the notion that the highly publicized event was all a publicity stunt. This is where the story shifted: many of those delighted to see the boy safe became skeptics of the idea that he was ever in danger.

Colleagues of the father’s have since spoken out against him, saying that he is a schemer and publicity hungry. Related blogs filled with accusations keep popping up all over the internet and T-shirts picturing the balloon with the words “Go Falcon, Go!” can now be purchased online, turning this 24 hour news sensation into a mini pop phenomenon. YouTube has a video of all three children rapping rather mature lyrics and included is a cameo from mother Mayumi, shredding a few chords on an electric guitar.

So what if this really was all a hoax? The evidence is mounting faster against the Heene family than it is in defense of their story.

Remember the story of the man who “caught” Bigfoot last year in Georgia? Authorities initially spoke of pressing charges and the two men who masterminded the hoax are now being sued privately by a man who tried to purchase the fake body for $50,000. These two individuals created a Web site, an elaborate story and posted pictures of a hideous costume in a large cooler — none of which required public funding, occupied emergency response vehicles, or simply wasted important community resources.

Think that the new Heene family “balloon boy” hoax deserves any less attention? The answer to this question comes in two parts, in my opinion:

1. No, the Heene family should be held accountable for the cost of the search and rescue detail that responded. Also, the family should be charged, fined and banned from making any money from television spots, let alone making any appearances.

2. Yes, the “balloon boy” alleged hoax deserves far less attention than the American news media is giving it. If it were a legitimate tale of a boy floating away and his body not being found, there would be such justification. Reality is, we’re feeding publicity hungry animals when we should let them starve.

Why do we feed the publicity hungry when we have more pressing matters and timely causes to be informed of?

President Obama visited New Orleans for the first time since taking office. Two F-16 fighter jets collided off of the coast of South Carolina and one pilot is still missing. The Taliban have been responsible for more than 150 deaths in the last few weeks. All of these events took place during the coverage of the balloon floating, landing and the Heene family’s face time.

Why do we, the American people and news media, glorify such utter disrespect to our intelligence, character and overall purpose?

I can’t remember how many times I’ve been taught recently about the importance of news worthiness being at the top of the checklist when writing news releases. To me, this story completely skips that checkbox and for that, it should have skipped our television screens — if not last night, at least by now.

I’d like to think, in fact I know, that I’m better than that, but our news media isn’t prioritizing its own reputation. And unfortunately, it’s that materialistic, unintelligent and immature reputation I’m associated with when I travel around the world.

So, is the US news media bad PR for Americans, or are Americans who watch and allow this kind of news coverage bad PR for themselves?

By Josh Morris

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