Jack Shafer, Slate's media writer, takes a look at the Balloon Boy case and explains why newsies are such suckers for stories like that — why they forgo the discipline of verification that is supposed to inform good journalism. In doing so, he offers this simple hierarchy to explain newsworthiness:
... in the hierarchy of victimhood, young beats old, female beats male, domestic beats foreign, fur beats scales, defenseless beats well-armed, pregnant beats nonpregnant, and kittens beat everything.
... A keen reader of media manners and former Wife Swap participant, [Richard] Heene obviously appreciates that a 6-year-old in peril is irresistible media bait. God knows what fiendish stunt Heene would have attempted if the family's cat had just given birth to a litter of tabbies.