Whilst driving in to work this morning, I heard a story on the news that I decided to look up…  In the US yesterday, a big news story was all about a six-year old boy who was carried away in a family weather balloon that looked like a hot air balloon.

The news agencies are covering it massively and apparently TV cameras were following the boy, in the balloon, as he flew across the country for a couple of hours… When he went missing at the same time that the balloon flew off and out of the garden, everyone thought the boy was in the balloon and goodness knows what was going to happen to him… It dominated TV coverage… After those two hours, the boy was actually discovered in the attic at home. He had become scared about being in trouble and carried on hiding up there.

I think this was a great outcome for the story, yet following a great outcome, seems to come all manner of varying views about the child, the parents and all kinds of other things being discussed in the frenzied news coverage.

Why do people care so much about a news story that such a massive number of people in a country follow it every second for hours? What creates such appeal? How did this story get to be so hypnotically compelling?

Is it that a child is involved? The potential harm to a child seems to bring out a caring instict in all of us, doesn’t it? Most people tend to believe that bad things should not happen to children.

Was it the live, ongoing coverage of the balloon? Blogs were filled with updates yesterday and Twitter was charting it in it’s entireity, not to mention the constant TV coverage. It became something people could almost particiapte in, something htat could be engaged with jointly with lots of our fellows and as such become emotionally involved with.

Maybe it was the unknown outcome of the story, it could have gone all manner of different ways… heck, this keeps people tuning into Eastenders each week (even if we do know Archie is going to get the Queen Vic and then die at Christmas). Did this make the story more compelling?

Upon reading the news stories about it all this morning, it transpires that the family had actually appeared on the TV show ‘Wife Swap’ and perhaps viewers had slightly more emotional investment with them… Plus they were a thrill seeking family by all accounts, with a fascination in the weather… I must say, non-one in my neighbourhood has a huge weather balloon in their garden… (Although the centre of Bournemouth does boast a tourist balloon in the park close to the pier that you can go in and enjoy views of the town and coastline…) Here it is in fact:


When you look at photos and coverage of it, the balloon looked like something out of a sci-fi film, certainly enough to make me look twice. Maybe this event had some moral and ethical issues, “is the child well cared for?” “Is this a good family?” Etc, etc. Many of which are being asked by the media involved.

Surely all these ingredients combine to create a journalists dream, no?They are surely the ingredients to make a story utterly and consumingly hypnotic and transfixing!

Maybe having a day off worrying about MPs conduct, the recession, house prices, the war in Afghanistan and focusing on a boy flying across the country in a renegade balloon might be a news tonic every country needs!

Delighted he was found and well… Have a fabulous weekend.