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Why we should question mainstream media

October 16, 2010Comments No comments

The Bad Astronomy blog has a great article about Fox News’ coverage of the UFO/balloon sightings in New York that took place on October 13, 2010. According to the article, the reporter spent considerable time talking about a strange light in the sky that was actually planet Jupiter itself.

A small mess up no doubt—who hasn’t mistaken planets for stars, stars for planets and pretty much anything else in the night sky for something completely different? However, it goes to show that mainstream media is anything but reliable when it comes to reporting on UFO phenomena (and other topics).

Another example of reporters failing to investigate is the use of this alleged photo of one of the objects seen over New York. This image was used in both web and print media. Thing is, it was created by digital artist Jason Diamond (@jasondiamond). Curiously, he tweeted about it already on October 9, four days before the balloons over New York were seen. He has since deleted the image from TwitPic, but his tweet can still be viewed here.

On the topic of media—I can really recommend the book People Like Us by Dutch writer Joris Luyendijk. It has no connection to UFOs, but is an interesting study on the discrepancy between actual events and what the media reports.

In People Like Us, which became a bestseller in Holland, Joris Luyendijk tells the story of his five years as a correspondent in the Middle East. Extremely young for a correspondent but fluent in Arabic, he spoke with stone throwers and terrorists, taxi drivers and professors, victims and aggressors, and all of their families. He chronicles first-hand experiences of dictatorship, occupation, terror, and war. His stories cast light on a number of major crises, from the Iraq War to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with less-reported issues such as underage orphan trash-collectors in Cairo.

The more he witnessed, the less he understood, and he became increasingly aware of the yawning gap between what he saw on the ground and what was later reported in the media. As a correspondent, he was privy to a multitude of narratives with conflicting implications, and he saw over and over again that the media favored the stories that would be sure to confirm the popularly held, oversimplified beliefs of westerners. In People Like Us, Luyendijk deploys powerful examples, leavened with humor, to demonstrate the ways in which the media gives us a filtered, altered, and manipulated image of reality in the Middle East.

Get it on Amazon (there’s also a Kindle version).

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