The Helicopter Parent of Modern News

You can’t turn it off. Especially these days. And you’re not alone. We’re all increasingly obsessed with being among the first people to hear about (and often use social media to chime in on) the latest twist in the most addictive news stories. But it wasn’t always this way. Even media professionals used to slow down once in a while, back in the days when you didn’t expect to hear about today’s biggest stories until tomorrow’s newspaper landed on your driveway. Of course TV changed things. And the Internet changed everything. But in between, a helicopter pilot named Jerry Foster had as much to do as anyone with the way news has changed (I know, that’s a lot of blame to put on one guy). Jack Hitt, in the always excellent Epic Magazine, tells the story of the daredevil, his helicopter, and the risk of flying too high. (As an added bonus, reading this story will require you to take a few minutes off from actively monitoring today’s news.) “The thrill of always being first on the scene, with a camera, became an obsession for Foster, almost a kind of addiction. He kept a phone and a two-way radio on him at all times. If a call about a juicy story came in from the highway patrol during dinner, Foster was out the door, leaving his (now two) daughters, wife, and half-eaten meal behind … Somewhere along the line Foster had made a pledge to never be more than 20 minutes from his chopper, and to keep that promise he parked his helicopter in the backyard. When he went to a restaurant or a movie or a grocery store, he always chose places that had parking lots big enough for a helicopter to land. He selected his doctor and dentist because each had offices beside an open field.” (After reading this piece, I realized I’m basically the Jerry Foster of open browser tabs.)

Copied to Clipboard