Saturday, January 15, 2011

Born under a bad sign

I like exactly one thing in this whole misbegotten story, and it's in the third graf of the Lexington version shown at top:

Countless people reacted on social networks Friday to the "news" that the stars have shifted alignment, astrologically speaking.

Ta-da! The AP put "news" in quotes, and assorted rimrats had the good sense not to change it. (Even though, with the irony-free innocence that marks the journalistic enterprise, the story in this case appears right above the index's references to Dear Abby and the horoscope itself.) Shall we continue?

No matter that the astronomy instructor who started it all in a weekend newspaper interview said it was an old story -- very old; 2,000 years old, actually -- and that astrologists were insisting it wouldn't change a thing. The story had traveled around the blogosphere like, well, a shooting star.

All right, let's see. Even the astrologists say it's a bogus story. The astronomer who "started it all" says we ought to have not just a second-day lede but a 2,000th-year lede. But it's an internet sensation, so who cares if the "weekend newspaper interview" was actually, ahem, last weekend?

Right. The idea may have "caught many by surprise," as the hed claims, but those are the folks who missed it at the originating paper or the outlets -- it's tempting to say "countless," but, y'know, have some respect for the human ability to count, even in the face of stupid journalism -- that picked it up since. (It should probably go without saying that it was a staff-written story at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network by Tuesday.)

Some people seemed angry. "I believe it's a zodiac scam," said Jose Arce, a 38-year-old from Fort Lee, N.J., who runs a body shop.

News flash. "Scam" is the only kind of zodiac there is. There isn't another flavor. There are two broad categories of supernatural scams: ones that don't take your money and ones that do. The horoscope in the newspaper, generally, is the former. That doesn't mean it isn't a scam.

Now. We should make fun of a few more publications for their 1A gullibility. Buffalo fell for the "all atwitter" hed. Charlotte and Raleigh, once the great independent megaphones of North Carolina, are monolithically in the "what's your sign?" camp (I suppose it's telling that Charlotte can't even front a bogus story without hedging the hed). Give Fort Worth credit for prioritizing the un-newsworthiness of this pathetic story by getting both the scare quotes and the sheer multimillennial 2,000-year-oldness into a mere three lines of reefer.

Is Your Editor nothing but a terminally humorless old poop, just waiting for the sun to come up so he can scrape enough snow off the lawn to make it worth telling the kids to get off of? I'd like to think not -- I mean, in most cases, I actually amuse pretty easily. (Yes, I've written the Person on the Street feature* for Friday the 13th, too; let he who is without sin cast the first beanbag.) And I probably would have found a place for the horoscope story, given a generous newshole and limited competition.

I might suggest, though, that we can learn a lot about your news organization from a couple stories from the past few months: this and the Royal Engagement. If those were your no-brainers for frontpage national and world coverage, we've got a pretty good fix on your news values.

* Gawd, it's nice to have gotten most of this out of the way before the Intertubes came along.

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Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Aren't we just about due for it to happen again, anyway? We can all get upset about shifting to yet another sign any year now.

6:43 PM, January 16, 2011  

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