Laura Ingraham Rips Cable’s ‘Balloon Boy’ Coverage: “Puts Egg On All Of Our Faces” (AUDIO)

Cable news networks' rather breathless coverage of the 'balloon boy' saga has come in for its share of media criticism from across the political spectrum.

Appearing on MSNBC last night, Arianna challenged that particular network about it's non-stop coverage of what she called a "non-story." "Once the boy had been found, there was no story -- just tele-voyeurism. Why continue the wall-to-wall coverage of a story that had turned into a non-story -- on a political show -- during a week when health care, financial reform, and Afghanistan are all at the tipping point?" Arianna wrote about the coverage.

Today on her radio show, conservative radio host Laura Ingraham also unleashed some cutting remarks about the networks' wall-to-wall coverage of the Heenes. Much like Arianna did, Ingraham knocked the networks for devoting so much time to balloon boy instead of covering serious news. "Meanwhile Pakistan's blowing up, but let's not cover that story," Ingraham said.

What this does, is I think it kind of puts egg on all of our faces. We all become part of the media problem. I'll throw myself right into the mix. Because you really can't take your eyes off it, but meanwhile you know there are all these really important things happening, not only in our country but around the world.

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Sam Gustin: ‘Balloon Boy,’ Meghan McCain dominate Twitter while media gorge on the drama

It was as if the news media had enough and just couldn't take it anymore. After weeks of grinding coverage of the health care debate, bad news from Afghanistan and the bizarre antics of various political leaders, much of the mainstream news media seemed to come unhinged on Thursday afternoon in a Twitter-fueled explosion over two stories.

The first was the saga of Balloon Boy, little Falcon Heene, who was thought to have taken off from his Colorado home in a helium balloon, only to be found safe hours later. The second was the uproar over a photo posted on Twitter by Meghan McCain (pictured), former Republican presidential candidate John McCain's daughter, in which the blond 24-year-old is seen wearing a revealing tank-top.

CNN and other cable news networks devoted significant coverage to the drama of the lost six-year-old, with chopper-borne news cameras tracking the balloon's every move. Hours later, the boy was found safe, hiding in his attic. Subsequently, it was revealed that little Falcon's father had appeared on the reality-TV show "Wife Swap" and was known for his wacky scientific experiments and "storm-chasing," which would presumably explain why he had a helium balloon in his back yard.

During the 9 p.m. hour, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, sitting in for Larry King, interviewed the Heene family -- including little Falcon -- about the experience. Wolf pressed the family over whether the incident was all a trumped-up publicity stunt. At one point, little Falcon can be heard allegedly saying to his father, "you said we were doing this for a show."

At a time when the U.S. is facing serious crises on a number of fronts, foreign and domestic, how could the major news networks -- owned by media giants News Corp (NWS), GE (GE) and Time Warner (TWX) -- devote so much airtime to an empty balloon floating over the Rocky Mountains?

Easily, wrote Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher. "The press and news agencies reported for over an hour that a boy was in the balloon, without any qualifiers, even though the only witness was a sibling who saw him climb inside," Mitchell wrote. "Only after the crash did TV hosts stress that reports of a boy in it were 'unverified' and raised the possibility of a hoax. Few had raised the issue of whether such a balloon could even lift off with a 50-pound kid inside, and then float the way it did."

Meanwhile, the Internet, led by Twitter, went wild with Balloon Boy activity, which of course included the usual tasteless commentary. In fact, the story was driven in large point by the Internet. "Balloon Boy" became the No. 1 Google trend, indicating millions of people searching for information on the story, while the Twitter hashtag #balloonboy saw very heavy tweeting, as millions collectively kvetched over little Falcon's fate.

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The One Percent War (On The Media: Friday, 16 October 2009)

That the war in Afghanistan is getting attention at all right now from the media is downright surprising. Forgotten, undercovered and just plain ignored, coverage of the war there filled only about one percent of the news hole in 2008. But, as PEJ associate director Mark Jurkowitz explains, there’s been a sea change.

Liberal Analyst Marc Lamont Hill Fired From Fox News

hill_10-16Mediaite has confirmed Marc Lamont Hill has been fired from Fox News Channel. The liberal commentator was a regular on the network, most recently appearing as a guest on The O’Reilly Factor one week ago, according to TV Eyes.

Interestingly, the news was broken by News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch at the companies stockholders meeting today, reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Murdoch made the announcement after a shareholder asked about Hill’s “reputation of defending cop killers and racists.”

Hill, who is also currently a professor at Columbia University, recently got into a nasty back-and-forth with conservative author David Horowitz, who called him a “an affirmative action baby.” At the time, I wrote:

There are two ways this can go: either FNC can embrace the feud or they have to publicly shun Horowitz. On one level, Hill and Horowitz debating the premise of Horowitz’ original column would be incredible television.

Well it looks like the network has gone an entirely different, somewhat surprising direction – firing him. Hill’s profile has been on the rise at the network, as his appearances on Bill O’Reilly’s show and others in prime time have increased. We’ve reached out to both Fox News and Hill for more information. There is likely more to this story somewhere.

> Update: That may have been Hill’s last appearance on Fox News, but he was on Fox Business Network yesterday, for a short interview during the 1pmET hour (h/t J$).

Here is Hill’s appearance on The Factor last week:

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Last Chance to Get a Discounted Ticket for NewTeeVee Live

NTVLiveTime to stop procrastinating and reserve your ticket to NewTeeVee Live! Today, Oct. 16th, is your final chance to buy a discounted pass to the conference. For just $395 (a sliver of other industry conferences, and $200 less than our walk-in ticket), you’ll get a jam-packed day of interviews with industry heavyweights, demos of the devices soon to hit your living room, and previews of the next generation of video giants.

Some of the timely topics our speakers will be addressing:
TV HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE:

Amy L. Banse, President, Interactive Media & SVP, Comcast
Brian Fuhrer, SVP, Program Leader, TV/Internet Integration, Nielsen
Erik Flannigan, EVP of Digital Media, MTVN Entertainment Group

OVER-THE-TOP AND THROUGH THE WOODS:

Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix
Anthony Wood, Founder and CEO, Roku, Inc.
Marc Whitten, GM of Xbox LIVE, Microsoft
Kevin Lynch, CTO, Adobe Systems

THE VIDEO SOCIAL CLUB:

Hunter Walk, Director of Product for YouTube, Google
Randi Zuckerberg, Marketing, Facebook
Andy Mitchell, VP of Digital and Development Marketing, CNN

This morning I received an email from Ian Gardiner, CEO of Viocorp, who said he’s flying out from Australia for the event. So the rest of you have no excuses!