The XX Factor

Balloon Boy, Found. Cable TV, Indicted.

Balloon boy Falcon Heene has been found, in a box in his attic (the perfect place for a 6-year-old to hide), not the hot-air balloon that raced across our TV screens this afternoon. So I think, Hanna, that the balloons can go back to being a giddy, thrilling ride , as they were in Oz and my Smithsonian favorite, To Fly . And now we’ll have a round of hand-wringing about wall-to-wall cable TV coverage of crazy mishaps involving small children. Arianna Huffington is already at it because she got bumped from talking on TV Thursday night about Joe Biden and Afghanistan. But you know, I don’t begrudge CNN a minute of those wild hours of footage. Yes, it was sick-making to watch, imagining a child inside. But it was also the kind of in-the-moment drama that it’s hard to turn away from. That’s what cable news does best: Remember, CNN got onto the media map by saturating us with the search for Baby Jessica who fell down the well. If we have the cameras and the capability, how do we turn them off? It would be up to us, the hooked audience, to get unhooked, and it seems to me very human and fallible that we never can.