It bugs me when the news chooses ratings over integrity….

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November 28, 2012 by kittynh

What does KDVR news Denver Colorado, 2012, and the newspaper “The New York Sun”, 1835, have in common?  Both used sensational news stories to raise their profile and attract more of an audience.  News outlets, be they paper, television, or internet based, have two goals.  One is the obvious one of providing news, the second, often just as important if not more so, is ratings.

Currently KDVR is attracting a lot of attention for showing video of what appears to be bugs.  The video, taken by someone that wishes to remain anonymous but appears to have quite hairy arms, appears to show a fast moving UFO.  An aviation expert appears to say it is not an airplane.  Later the reporter, Heidi Hemmat, claims the expert claimed the objects were not bugs.

However in an email to myself and other skeptics including Robert Schaeffer and Baxter and Bryan of Rocky Mountain Paranormal, the aviation expert Steve Cowell writes the following.

“Tonight, I reviewed the FOX 31 feature again. I strongly suggest you view the story as well. All I stated was that I couldn’t identify the object. I NEVER stated it wasn’t a bug. The reporter was conveying information the photographer stated near the end of the video (pay attention to the context). … not from anything attributable to me. All I said was that I could NOT identify the object.  I request you correct and comment to that fact on any of your blog posts. “

His point is true, Hemmat makes it seem the “expert” claimed the UFO was not bugs.  Hemmat must have taken some of the comments to heart as she then had on a “bug expert”, who it appears was given too little information and in this article by Phil Plait on “Bad Astronomy” 

The entimologist, Mary Ann Hamilton, was interviewed by Plait.  From Plait’s article, he gives his opinion, one shared by myself.

“I did the best I could with what was shown to me,” she told me. And in my opinion, she didn’t have nearly enough information to go on, and some of the info she was given simply wasn’t correct. So in this case, contacting an entomologist did nothing to eliminate the possibility these are insects.

Plait also relates in the article how he contacted Hemmat and suggested a way using two cameras to figure out once and for all if it is “bugs” or not.  Hemmat however chose not to follow his advice.

There is a suspicion that perhaps Hemmat doesn’t want to find out just what the UFOs are.  What would be a fairly simply experiment, or simply looking at the evidence of Rocky Mountain Paranormal’s investigation that proves the UFOs are simply bugs, would mean an end to a story that has gained Hemmat and her station a lot of attention.  Internet articles, youtube hits, twitter and blogs by respected skeptic investigators, UFO sites, and scientists like Phil Plait is the kind of publicity you just can’t buy.

Do I believe the “bug video” is a hoax?  I don’t know.  All that is known is someone, unknown, brought a video to the studio.  I wonder if perhaps someone said “This would get a lot of viewers!”  Perhaps teasers of “UFO footage!” played before the news that night.  If nothing else, after the first video played I’m sure people tuned in to find out if there was any update.  I’ve seen this video more than once.  When someone living in rural New Hampshire has seen video from a station in Denver, that’s a publicity success.

Has enough been done by a hard news station to find out the truth of this video?  My personal opinion is no.  This is not the History channel or the Weekly World News.  This is a professional hard news station, not an entertainment show.  My opinion is that a news station has a responsibility to viewers to present the news in as truthful a manner possible.  Viewers trust their local news station to give them the news, not spin a UFO video that they have not investigated fully.

Also the way the two experts claim they were treated by the station leads me to the suspicion that the station perhaps doesn’t want this story to die too soon.  “Bugs”, the explanation several groups have already proven to my satisfaction, and that Phil Plait has outlined to the station how they can prove to their satisfaction, would be the last we would hear of this video.

That wouldn’t be good for ratings.  However, is it good for a news program to be accused of at best sloppy reporting and at worst of being suspected of a hoax and cover up?

This whole story has reminded me of the 1835 “New York Sun”.  In a series of articles, the Sun reported that Sir John Herschel had built a new telescope and made many fantastic astronomical discoveries.  A series of article reported all manner of new discoveries, the most amazing that there were tribes of some sort of human like creatures were living on the moon.  These moon men had wings.  There was also a beaver that walked up right.

Moon men and walking beavers!
(I wonder if the moon had bugs?)

Newspaper hoaxes were common at the time.  Later on, in the 1890’s newspapers would carry stories about UFOs, or mystery airships, most simply printed to boost circulation.

While I don’t consider the Denver UFO bug story an outright hoax, it certainly seems to be treated as a “fluff piece”.  By that I mean if the station truly believed the Denver area was being visited by some sort of alien driven space vehicle, or some super secret flying device, one would hope they would invest many hours into what could be the story of the century.  I would also think they would contact the military to turn over tapes of what, to them, seems to be an incredibly fast unknown flying device.

It’s time for Hemmat to step up as a reporter and do her job.  A professional reporter will go the extra mile to report the news, not guesses, to her viewers.

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