Monday, February 13, 2006

Cancer cured! Mideast at peace!

And, oh, lots of other stuff that frees up that pesky A-section space for the likes of:

Fla. woman perceives Virgin Mary on a chip
Passenger says she felt sensation before seeing image on her snack
Knight Ridder

Let's review the hierarchy of wrongdoing here a little:
1) No blame attaches to people who see supernatural images on foodstuffs or other inanimate objects. It's their inalienable right, and we make fun of them at our own risk. One, it's rude, and two, we're still getting a lot of mileage out of the Western Civ idea that some pattern of stars or another looks like a guy with a sheep. So lighten up.
2) Writing a news story about that person when she walks in with the chip, that's a bit of a different story. It's a duty to be polite, but at some point, newspapers should assert their fundamental responsibility to the earthly and empirical.
3) Running a four-day-old wire story from 600 miles away about somebody who walked into somebody else's newsroom with the Madonna on a Frito, on the other hand, is freaking inexcusable. Period, graf, get me rewrite.

But there's more to come, so reach for the garlic and silver and join in. (Copyeds, the lesson for our camp in this is: When people are trying to put crap in the paper, try to talk them out of it. No, harder.)

PALMETTO, Fla. - Elizabeth Gould said a strange sensation overwhelmed her while she was eating from a bag of potato chips during a flight from New York.
(Wouldn't be very nice to say "That's why they put those bags in the seatbacks," would it? Thought not.)

She paused, stopped eating and looked at the potato chip in her hand.

It looked familiar. The chip bears the image of the Virgin Mary, Gould said, and passengers on the flight agreed. (Some of them perhaps thinking very, very nice thoughts about the Homeland Security people for the first time.)

She spread out the remainder of the chips on her tray, but none looked like anything more than, well, a potato chip. So she wrapped the roughly quarter-sized chip in a napkin, tucked it in the bag and held on to it.

Well, the next couple of grafs don't do much except make you wonder who came up with the idea of narrative journalism in the first place. Then you get to:

This isn't the first story of claims of holy images appearing on food and other items, according to the Web site

Oh, for God's sake. The sun's going to rise in the East tomorrow; are you guys planning to attribute that to Wikipedia too? Can you, like, conceive of some form of reporting that doesn't involve a search engine?

Some recent reports include a Nebraska couple claiming to found a pretzel bearing the image of Mary holding baby Jesus. Another sighting of Mary's image was reported on an emergency turnoff underneath Chicago's Kennedy Expressway. Both occurred in 2005. Probably the most famous case happened about two years ago., an online casino, paid $28,000 for a grilled cheese sandwich allegedly bearing the image of Mary.

Hmm. "Probably the most famous case." Hey, here's a game we can play. See if you can name a city in Italy where a major international sporting event is taking place even as we speak. Now see if you can think of something with the same last name that's slightly more famous than a sodding grilled cheese sandwich.

Now at this point, you might be wondering how many steak knives come with an offer like this. In other words, can you shed any more clues and still be counted among the vertebrates? Well ...

Chip's holiness disputed
Herald Staff Writer
MANATEE -- Herald readers aren't convinced a Palmetto woman found the image of the Virgin Mary on a potato chip.

As of 10 p.m. Thursday, 137 readers cast votes on The Herald's online poll that asked the question, "Do you think the potato chip bears the image of the Virgin Mary?"

Our readers were skeptical.

Of the respondents, 120, or 88 percent, don't believe the potato chip found by Palmetto resident Elizabeth Gould bears the image of Jesus' mother. But 17, or 12 percent, do.

OK, that's about enough. There ought to be enough embarrassment to go around on this one. If people insist on writing this stuff, do them the kindness of keeping it out of the paper.


Blogger nicole bogdas said...

I agree the 4-day-old shouldn't have run. I agree a story didn't need to be written about a paper's online poll of a very small sampling of people, but....

This is the kind of stuff people like to read in the paper. I hate to admit it as much as the next true jounalist, but we are no longer the gatekeepers. We can't force people to care about, as a recent example, the elections in Haiti. I'm not saying it's the right thing, but will all the doom and gloom about the future of newspapers (and, reading Romenesko, the magazine and broadcast industries are scared as well) isn't it in our best interest to rethink how we do things? We're so vastly behind the times and in desperate need of an upgrade. Within that rethinking, I think there are opportuinites to get people to read the things we think are important while satisfying their need for lighter, bizarre news. I've seen some papers make strides in this area, but most have not. I don't have all the answers or anything, but aside from this story being a few days late, which is unacceptable, I don't think running it was inherantly wrong. Also, perhaps I'm missing your general argument, Fred.

1:51 AM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Strayhorn said...

Where's the pancake with Jesu on it? Or the cow whose stripes say "Allah akbar"?

Perhaps papers should have a roundup kolm of various nuttery and other superstitious nonsense. Like economics, understood by few but believed by many.

2:44 PM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Greg Gaia said...

These sort of stories are why some people think that media outlets sensationalize things. This makes me want to side with them.

5:15 PM, February 21, 2006  

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