Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Last Thursday afternoon, my daughter's homework assignments included watching five minutes of the Weather Channel. As we turned on the television, a silver saucer-shaped balloon was floating across the screen -- an ambulance and fire trucks were racing after it. Like millions of other Americans, we were mesmerized. What was happening? Was there a boy inside? Would he be OK?

The balloon landed, and my two children and I guessed that there was no one inside. We were right.

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It is too bad the balloon was silver instead of transparent -- we could have seen inside and realized that it was empty. That inside there was not a soul, only hot air.

Speculation abounded, but the real giveaway was when Falcon Heenes told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "We did this for the show."

What show?

The family had been on the reality television show "Wife Swap," and Richard Heene, the father, had recently been pitching various reality show ideas, but to no avail.

It's hard to pitch a reality show when the activity is all staged. It makes it a show about a show and makes you wonder: What is reality in our current culture?

Earlier this month, a Ralph Lauren advertisement caused a hubbub when a poster for the Blue Label Jeans featuring model Filippa Hamilton showed her body so thin that her head looked bigger than her waist. Some claimed Photoshop overkill. The company acknowledged the fakery.

"For over 42 years, we have built a brand based on quality and integrity," said a Ralph Lauren spokesman. "After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman's body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately."

It might be proper if, in addition to acknowledging and owning this particular image, they would also address going forward how to ensure their artwork represents what is authentic and real.

A difficult question in today's society: What is authentic and real.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.