Quality, Quantity, and the Balloon Boy
Colorado sheriff sees no hoax in balloon incident – Reuters, Fri Oct 16, 2009 5:45pm EDT
Balloon boy case a hoax, says sherrif; charges coming – Reuters, Sun Oct 18, 2009 7:50pm EDT
I was driving home from a hospital call last Thursday, and heard on the radio about the “balloon boy”. And not just on one station – they were all over it! Following the balloon, reporting moment by moment on what was happening (or what they thought was happening). When I got home I saw that several TV channels were carrying the “news”, again with live video so we could watch every single moment. And on the ‘Net, my news homepage was full of balloon boy “news”.
Now, it seems, it might well have been an intentional hoax. We still don’t know, and I suspect it will take some time to know.
And isn’t that the problem with the “news”? So quick to report, so slow to analyze. The emphasis is all on quantity (=fastest) rather than quality (=what is actually happening here?)
It takes time to know what things mean. I suspect a look at your own life will tell you that. You lost your job – ok, but what will that mean in the bigger picture of your life? OK, you won the lottery, but what will that mean? It takes time.
In the meantime, I think it’s very distracting to have a river of “look at that” and “watch this” passing before us. (I’ve noticed that my local news guy/gal will actually say “take a look at this”, like I might not have my eyes glued to the screen and need to have my attention called to the image on the TV rather than on my wife sitting next to me).
The media, it seems, is fixated on getting it first, not getting it right. If we don’t ignore that blather and take the longer view of what things actually mean, we’re going to be continually blown about by every of wind images, unrooted, unanchored, and helpless on the fast road to hell.