"We have some breaking news, there is a boy in what looks like a homemade hot-air balloon floating ten thousand feet above the ground in Northern Colorado!" In the latest example of a society gone haywire, we have Richard Heene and his family's bizarre attempt to captivate our nation's attention and our media's equally bizarre willingness to oblige.

When I got back from class last week I thought I'd turn on the news and get a quick update on what was going on in the world. I was expecting to hear about the situation in Afghanistan or about the state of our nation's intensifying health care debate. Instead, I got a heavy dose of nothing. For literally hours, I could flip to every news station our cable package provides and see nothing but the same image of a floating homemade balloon; I kept asking myself, "Why are these news outlets covering this like it's September 11?" I understand that 24-hour news stations have a lot of air time to fill, but I just can't believe that there was nothing more important going on in the entire world for the roughly four hours that the balloon floated across American televisions.

For those of you who didn't have the stomach to continue to watch the Heene family as they shamelessly peddled their story to CNN and made the rounds on the morning show circuit, the boy with a bird's name (Falcon) never made it off the ground. He was "hiding" (or more likely being hidden) in an attic while a nation stared at a balloon.

While the conduct of the family was deplorable, and they certainly deserve to be punished, the real blame for the scope of this incident's consequences should be directed at our national media. In their ridiculous competition to be the first to break a story (one that all would soon claim as their own), the media outlets failed to make the simple effort to find out whether or not there really was a boy floating above northern Colorado.

While the media has been quick to shift the story to a sort of life lesson on the damaging effects of attention seekers and parents using their children for their own gain, I am still waiting to hear an apology from them for wasting my time.

Regardless of how this story eventually unfolds, I already know too much about the Heene family. It may make for interesting water-cooler talk and there may very well be a market for such a story, but I don't think it deserved the coverage it has received nor do I think the media had an obligation to follow through on the story after they found out the spectacle was all a hoax.

We can hope that this event turns into a learning experience. We can hope that other attention seekers will see the consequences of the Heene family's actions and think twice before they pull a similar stunt. But it's probably too much to hope that the media could become a credible source of news again. News as entertainment has its place in society, but whatever happened to news as news?

Craig Hardt is a member of the Class of 2012.