I can't help but notice that in its recent report on the "Balloon boy" incident of last week, which authorities are now treating as a staged hoax, CNN is taking credit for being the news outlet that first penetrated the ruse, and touting it as their own enterprise reporting:
The "Aha!" moment that led authorities to realize what had happened was an interview with the family Thursday night on CNN's "Larry King Live," Sheriff Jim Alderden of Larimer County said Sunday. In the interview with Wolf Blitzer, filling in for King, the Heenes asked their son why he had not come out from hiding when they called his name.
"You guys said we did this for the show," the boy responded.
Certainly, we should all give credit and thanks to the heroic television camera that was pointed in the direction of this news, and which dutifully recorded it. But I think it's a bit much to call it an "Aha! moment" when it glosses over the fact that CNN and Wolf Blitzer completely missed the moment as it unfolded in real time. Philip Bump, at Mediaite, like Pepperidge Farms, remembers:
Wolf Blitzer was handed, on a mylar platter, the scoop of the day - Balloon Boy, Falcon Heene, responding to the question of why he hid in the attic so long with a tenuous, "You guys said that we did this for the show." His father reacted like the jig was up ("Man..."); his mother, holding out hope, pushed back. That happened shortly before 9:18 p.m. Eastern, which is when I sent a tweet saying, "Um, I think the Balloon Boy just said he didn't come out of hiding because, 'we did it for a show.' Wolf, want to check on that?"
Wolf didn't want to check on that. Another half hour of interview proceeded, with no mention of Falcon's statement. The parents and their squirming sons breezed through softballs about how they felt, the nature of the balloon, etc. All of those who felt something was odd about the whole situation, myself included, watched a key point fade away.
It wasn't until the end of the segment that Blitzer finally, limply, circled back around to asking about Falcon's response to the question, but all it took was a little batting back from Richard Heene to curb that line of questioning. As Bump points out, "If it hadn't been for Anderson Cooper picking up the ball during 360, CNN would have completely abandoned their own scoop."
Of course, there were a ton of people, watching the interview as it unfolded, for whom Falcon's statement truly was an "Aha! moment," and many of them took to the blogosphere and to Twitter to register the WTFing that helped advance the story. Naturally, all of those people are killing journalism!
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