Network news executives are said to be pondering the implications of the riveting wall-to-wall coverage of what turned out to be an amateurish hoax involving a runaway balloon and a 6-year-old boy.
“It was like the white Bronco chase involving O.J.,” said one executive. “Now it was true in that case that O.J. was actually in that Bronco. But we have to ask ourselves, did he have to be in that Bronco from the point of view of the aerial coverage?”
What seems to be emerging in the aftermath of “Balloon Boy” is leading some network and cable news executives to consider a whole new category of reality show programming that will feature casts of news anchors and on-camera reporters “covering” made-up stories.
“The key will be credibility,” said another executive. “These invented stories will have to be presented in such a way that they are immediately viewed as actual events.”
But other executives believe that concern is overstated. They argue that it’s supposition, not credibility, that will make a reality news show believable.
“Balloon Boy demonstrates you only have to have an audience suppose there’s a small boy inside what amounts to a flying Jiffy Pop container to have everyone’s eyes glued to their sets.”
Those executives also point to legitimate coverage of actual news stories such as the Obama birther controversy, the Death Panels charge in healthcare reform and the Sarah Palin vice presidency campaign, as examples of a news audience ready to believe just about anything as long as there’s a camera shooting it.
Executives at the Fox Network, however, are said to be enraged over the prospect of a reality news show. According to one Fox insider, the cable network believes it has already lost its fake news franchise to programs such as “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” and plans to dig in its heels and fight any attempt to steal what Fox believes has been its pioneering work in the development of reality news.
“Fox bigwigs are saying what they spend alone on hairdos and makeup for their Fox News Channel’s news actors and actresses make the issue worth ‘going to the mattresses over,’” claimed the insider. “Fox believes it has already established the principle of ‘reality news’ with its current broadcast programming, and will fiercely defend against any attempt to plagiarize what we’re doing in the name of mere entertainment.”
Meanwhile sources say a reality news show is already in development. Episodes involving “coverage” of made-up news events, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announcing she will not mount another presidential campaign, effective regulation of the financial industry and a deficit-neutral healthcare bill are already said to be in production with previous contestants on such reality shows as“The Bachelor,” and “Wild Girls of Makos” serving as news anchors. It is believed that judges may include Glen Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, who are all considered experts in the transforming of real into invented news.
“If anyone can judge how believable made-up news is, it’s that group,” noted one executive.