Balloon boy hoax, CNN and Twitter


Balloon boy was a non-story from the start

The father’s decision to call a TV company on thinking his child was missing in a weather balloon, rather than the emergency services, sounded strange and should have alerted CNN that this was a publicity stunt from the very start.

Image Credit: The Daily Telegraph

Then, when the networks find out within minutes, that the father was also a contestant on a reality TV show, (and that he had his children performing on Youtube), it seemed even more like a publicity stunt from someone obsessed with being famous.

The odds of there ever being anyone in that balloon were close to zero.  BUT this did not stop CNN covering the event live – AND let’s face it, there’s plenty of REAL news happening right now.

Why broadcast the balloon boy story when it was so flimsy?

A few years ago, stories were researched before they were broadcast and that’s the first we would know of them.  Today, every time a big story breaks, it’s picked up on Twitter first and the news companies / TV networks are left playing catch-up.  This is BAD NEWS for the networks, as it means they no longer get all those valuable viewers / listeners to advertise to.  Remembering, advertising revenue is what funds the networks. (Excluding The BBC here in the UK.)

Whilst Twitter is a super fast way of getting breaking news, it has one well-known, massive weakness – It’s extremely unreliable as a news source.  You hear of a celebrity dying, (like Jeff Goldblum recently) and you know there’s a good chance that he’s probably water-skiing or in the gym training for a marathon.  Like most people, I’ve lost count of how many disasters I have seen on Twitter as breaking news, which never actually happened.

That’s why whenever a big news story breaks on Twitter, the first thing most intelligent people do, is check to see if the news networks are confirming it. The news might break first on Twitter, but like the boy who cried wolf, we never know if we can trust it or not.

News outlets playing to Twitters strengths

The strength of the established news outlets and TV stations is their highly trained staff, their network of contacts and their researching skills. However, rather than play to their strengths, the news outlets and TV stations are trying to compete with Twitter on speed – a race that they can not win, if they want to remain a trusted, reliable source. That’s why we can expect to see more balloon boy non-stories in the future.  From here in, I think I’m going to refer to this speed over facts bullshit as ‘ balloon boy journalism.’ (You saw it here first folks!!)

I’m hoping that this dumb-ass story isn’t the starting pistol, as the news outlets take their places for a ‘race to the bottom’.  Yes, there has always been political bias in the news and yes, the news outlets have often got things wrong.  However, focusing on speed rather than facts is hardly going to improve the quality and reliability of the news we watch or hear.

Balloon boy journalism plays into Twitters hands

If this really is a sign that the news outlets are going to focus on speed, rather than facts, Twitter could become our most valuable news outlet.  At the moment, the only thing Twitter has over the traditional news outlets is speed.  However, if the news outlets become just as unreliable, no one will bother checking a story out via their TV, radio or the website of one of those currently, trusted outlets.

People will see a story break on Twitter and stay there, until it’s either called out as a hoax or confirmed as a fact.  After all, as in the fake Jeff Goldblum death story I mentioned earlier, many TV stations report Twitter hoaxes as facts anyway.  Surely, for the news outlets to compete and survive, they need to play to their strengths and spare us more balloon boy ‘stories’? If you are looking forward to translate this content, contact Translation Agencies UK

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