Thursday, October 15, 2009

Come Fly Away

If you watched television at any point today, you probably saw video of the runaway UFO-looking balloon north of Denver today. The story was that a 6-year-old boy had climbed into the balloon and it had taken off unexpectedly (whether he did it on purpose or not was the topic of much speculation). It careened from near Fort Collins down towards the airport, which shut down northbound flights, climbing as high as 13,000 feet before touching down in a field in Weld County.

I could see the helicopters just north of our house.

The kid was fine, btw. He apparently accidently set loose the balloon and hid in the attic of the garage, afraid of getting punished. Just about what I'd expect from a six-year-old who had just lost his father's experimental weather aircraft/balloon thing. I'm glad he's ok.

The news coverage was instant, constant, and inane. This is national news? This required every single idiot on Twitter to post about it? I'm sorry, but the first thing I thought was "oh, how horrible, I hope the kid is alright...." and then the immediately thought that this is simply Tragedy Porn.

You know, endless breathess coverage, interviews with anyone who has ever seen the family, footage of crying family members and endless discussions about the situation back and forth among the television crew and in-studio anchors, repeating over and over the few facts they know. This was fairly unusual-how often do you see a floating UFO balloon?--but the story affected no one but the family, possibly their neighbors, and the rescue personnel called out to respond to this possible emergency.

There might have been a frightened six-year-old in the balloon, and I can only imagine how terrified the family was...but to throw it up on television for a few hours and bring all other news and activity to a screeching halt is ridculous. Reminds me of the hours of live television coverage of the white bronco attempting to flee police at low speed. Really? This required all stations to cover it and live footage online and thousand and thousands of Twitter posts? (don't get me started on twitting, either, or tweeting or whatever they call it).

People glued to the television waiting with bated breath for the next moment's news. Watching people digging out of an earthquake, watching video of tsunamis over and over again. Hours and hours of video of a fire burning.

Tragedy Porn.

Or maybe I'm just a horrible curmudgeon.

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