Have you heard of this Colorado Icarus, the Balloon Boy?
So everyone and his dog wants to know if this whole thing was a set-up or what. Maybe, probably, kinda’, but maybe not, the
Sparrow Eagle Boobie Falcon kid spills the beans on Larry King. Every media outlet will literally cast your firstborn off in a weather balloon to get the exclusive.
One mile-high-state grad student seems to be lucky enough to have it. But as he’s smart enough to get a combo 1120 on his GRE, he’s not giving it way for free. So he contacts some media outlets looking to sell. Naturally, Nick Denton, having recently said he would love to be the “place you go if you want to make a buck,” stepped up to make some poor Colorado bastards dream come true.
Yesterday evening, Gizmodo posted a story titled FOR SALE: Proof That Balloon Boy Was A Hoax.
The site said it was contacted by “a student” of the balloon kid’s dad. It said the guy had a story “but the purported proof will cost you thousands of dollars to get.” Then it prints the guy’s story. And then Gizmodo says, “If you want to buy the proof, let us know, and we’ll put you in touch with the seller.” It appears matchmaker, oh matchmaker, made us a match.
Surprise then when 24 hours later Gawker runs the story “Exclusive: I Helped Richard Heene Plan a Balloon Hoax.” It is by “a student” of the ballooon boy’s dad. Did Gawker pay the thousands in question for the story? I contacted Gawker Editor in Chief Gabriel Snyder to ask what relationship the exclusive had to yesterday’s Gizmodo posting. His answer: “We became aware of him via a Business Insider post. I didn’t see Gizmodo’s post, but probably the same guy. Though Snyder admitted that Gawker had indeed paid 25-year-old researcher Robert Thomas for his exclusive. he would not return emails about the price.
Timestamped at the same moment of the original Robert Thomas post is a very long Foster Kamer post bullet-pointing the resume of Thomas’ involvement.
So it appears the lesson is, if you know somebody, however tangentially, who may have been, for even an instant, in the national consciousness, by God do not just tell anyone about it. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org first because your ability to be in the right place at the right time may be worth several thousand dollars. Corroboration? Don’t worry about it. Didn’t you get Denton’s memo?
Further, if Snyder is being honest, it seems bizarre that Gawker’s flagship would become aware of such an exclusive offer via a post on one of its sites, no? Doesn’t anyone over there have a phone?
Update: Via Mediaite: Business Insider points out another aspect of the Gawker purchase. Part of the deal with Robert Thomas was that Gawker bought ” 48 hours of Thomas silence,” ensuring Gawker would have time to milk its exclsuive.