PEJ New Media Index: For the Second Straight Week, Bloggers Focus on Balloon Boy and Global Warming

  • October 29, 2009

For bloggers, the ongoing fallout from the infamous October 15 "balloon boy" hoax was the top subject last week-and anger permeated much of the online commentary.

From October 19-23, fully 32% of the links to news-related stories from blogs were to the balloon story, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. (That roughly triples the attention (10%) the subject generated the previous week.) News that the parents of  "balloon boy" Falcon Heene would likely be charged with a crime drove interest last week, with bloggers expressing outrage over irresponsible parenting, voicing criticism of media coverage and offering critiques of the reality-show culture that may have spawned the episode.

Three of the five most widely viewed YouTube videos last week were also connected to the balloon story. Two of them featured clips from the October 15 CNN interview that provided one of the earliest clues that the tale might have been concocted.

Also for the second week in a row, global warming was among the top stories in blogs, accounting for 10% of the links-although that was down from 50% the previous week. Skeptics of global warming dominated the conversation in both weeks, most recently reacting to a warning from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown about catastrophic danger if a climate change agreement is not reached by December's UN Summit. Many bloggers who criticized Brown's remarks pointed to the same article that spurred the previous week's discussion-an October 9 BBC report that questioned the science of global warming. 

The global warming story, in particular, reveals how a sector of the public, passionate over a particular subject, can quickly assemble online.

Read the full report For the Second Straight Week, Bloggers Focus on Balloon Boy and Global Warming on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.