Oct 202009
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

Have you ever taken a doggie treat, held it in front of a dog, waggled it around a bit and pretended to throw it? The dog goes chasing after it, as we all know. While arguably cruel, it’s also inarguably hilarious.

But let’s say you really wanted to mess with your dog. Let’s say you wanted your dog to go on a statewide trek, because man, you really want to prove that dog is stupid. So let’s say you get a balloon and pretend to put the doggie treat on it, and off the dog goes, slobbering and wagging, never thinking that you are smugly holding the treat the whole time.

Or the treat could have just been hiding in the attic the whole time. Stupid dog.

Before my metaphor falls apart entirely, I’d like to take a moment to clarify — I hold absolutely no fault with the rescue workers and the emergency personnel that handled the Balloon Boy incident. Stopping to question, “Are we being punked?” is not something emergency workers do when death is on the line — you just go out and save people.

But the media? Bad watchdog. Bad, bad watchdog.

I’m used to politicians punking the media. They write the press releases and we read them, and if there are ever discrepancies between our journalistic research and their press releases, they’ll issue a press release to explain that. The best way to avoid this, however, is to avoid doing research in the first place.

But when the word of a 6-year-old is all the evidence we have that a kid took a magic balloon ride, perhaps a bit of extra digging would have been nice. Ask the parents what they saw, ask some local authorities if maybe the street has been searched. Dig around a bit. You know, journalism.

Even though the parents were in on it in this instance, they could have just been dumb and excitable. If all it takes is the word of a 6-year-old and something newsfolk can follow in a helicopter, then I look forward to the new string of stories about “really spooky large dogs” and “how the principal has a dungeon he keeps the F students in.”

Now the media, feeling stupid and abused, is focusing on making the inevitable criminal proceedings a national news item. See, because the Heenes did this for the publicity, so we should shame them with as much national coverage as possible.

“Tut tut,” I can hear a few of you saying, “here you are criticizing the media attention and yet you yourself are contributing to it.” To explain — someone in the theater has to make a bit of noise to say, “Shh!” and while I won’t stop the giggly teens texting behind me, I’ll at least feel betteProxy-Connection: keep-alive

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as they ignore me and keep kicking my seat.

Granted, there was only a five-hour window between takeoff and landing. It’s not the lengthiest thing the media has ever blatantly ignored or bought into wholesale (insert a Bush-era scandal reference here if you are leftist, and an Obama gaffe here if you are right-wing.)

But it’s certainly the most simple — a family’s tall tale and a shiny balloon. Are we really so far gone that such a simple ruse will unquestioningly receive knee-jerk, national coverage? Shouldn’t there be someone whose job it is to fact check?

Breaking news — I am being told that an epidemic of cooties is spreading wildly across playgrounds nationwide, and that the inoculation is little more than a placebo. According to sources, cooties infect more than half of all Americans, and there is no cure.

Johnathan Kastner is a senior undeclared major with a physical and mathematical sciences interest. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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