Friday, July 10, 2009

Headline Headaches

My decision to scan a great quantity of old newspaper and magazine clippings about UFOs, science and the "paranormal" before they crumble into confetti gave me an opportunity to conduct a mini-review of the way editors approach these topics. Without actually reading the articles, we can often determine editor and publisher viewpoints simply by reading the headlines. It was once common for newspapers to employ headline writers, experts in their own right who composed just the right words to attract folks who might plunk down a few coins to read more about the subject at hand as well as --the real bonus -- advertisements inside the publication.

While UFO researchers should be profoundly grateful that so many editors around the world see fit to record for posterity instances of dramatic and truly puzzling UFO activity, we, unfortunately, also bear witness to those who recklessly, foolishly or intentionally help muddy the waters of public opinion about a legitimate scientific mystery.

Headlines, as you can see here, often betray the supposed impartiality and accuracy (UFOs are not just a U.S. phenomenon, for example) that faithful readers anticipate, and skeptics/debunkers are always welcome, no matter their personal levels of ignorance. Why, we might ask, don't newspaper editors offer up similarly absurd headlines when, say, a family of four perishes in a bloody highway accident? Your local newspaper will never print a headline like this:


The thing is, that sort of headline would instantly raise circulation, supported by a curious, if not outraged, public -- and that's why some news editors will never stop appealing to the absurd when printing articles and headlines about UFOs. Annoying but true.