In 1987 we had Baby Jessica, an 18-month-old who fell into a Texas well and remained stuck there between October 14 and 16. Her ordeal provided daily fodder for the relatively new 24-hour cycle of cable news. She was a sensation for days and weeks afterward, and she even inspired a television movie.
Today, it seems, such events come and go by lunchtime. Take “Balloon Boy:” The plight of a Colorado 6-year-old captured the imagination of cable news, Google surfers and Twitter readers for much of the early afternoon today.
The boy was believed to be adrift above Colorado in a homemade weather balloon, part of his parents' storm-chasing hobby. (The family had appeared on the television show Wife Swap). News stations, including one local outlet, broke into regular programming to provide live shots of the metallic balloon adrift like so much trash in Forest Gump. At about 12:40 p.m. the thing landed, and the search was on for the boy.
The 6-year-old was no where to be found, and he was later discovered safe at home — he wasn't balloon-bound at all, but rather hiding in an attic. A media sensation came and went in the time it took most folks to have their lunch breaks. Maybe that's a good thing. We had our fill. No need to belabor a non-story. Except, gulp, this boy has legs: He's already topping teasers for the lead stories on local news stations tonight. Twitter, we expect, has already moved on to better things.