Tuesday, November 27, 2012

UFOs to the Ratings Rescue?

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Where's The UFO

By Billy Cox
De Void
     The newsroom at Fox31 in Denver was so stunned by the response its UFO coverage provoked on Nov. 8 that it actually did a followup (!) last week. “We’ve heard from hundreds of people from all over the world,” Ron Zappolo, the buoyed anchor, told viewers.

But really? Seriously? Surprised at worldwide interest in UFOs when the acronym search dings 234 million hits on Google? Granted, that’s only a fraction of the 3 billion-plus returns tallied by punching “sex” into the search engine, but hey, “UFOs” beat “Jesus” by a whopping 83 million. De Void’s guessing the response was due to the fact that Fox31, aka KDVR, actually made an effort to apply a little journalism to the mystery. And KDVR was so stoked it shared the emails and voice messages and photos that came rolling in after Heidi Hemmat’s initial report. Clearly, the volume and intensity of the feedback threw her for a loop.

“People have questioned my journalistic integrity,” she remarked during the followup. “People either believe it or they don’t or they think I’m just a jerk who’s out there, y’know, shooting flies and making it up and telling people it’s UFOs, but I’m not.”

Welcome to The Great Taboo Club, man. In summary: Hemmat’s report sprang from footage provided by an anonymous source who pointed out oblique little blips zipping through mid-day skies when he slowed his otherwise unremarkable footage to a crawl. He argued the objects were flying so fast they couldn’t be seen in real time. Hemmat took Mr. X up on his challenge that the UFOs appeared at reliable intervals, and her photographer proceeded to capture UFO footage of his own. She also consulted an aviation authority who eliminated conventional aircraft, birds and bugs from the suspect list.

A ton of viewers weren’t buying the no-bug theory and evidently hammered Hemmat with you’re-an-idiot critiques, so she enlisted a puzzled entomologist to review the images. The entomologist’s verdict: “I don’t believe it’s an insect.”

“It’s unexplained, we’ve talked to all the experts,” Hemmat stated at the end of her second piece as she solicited viewer suggestions. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Great instincts, but let’s be clear. No, you didn’t talk to all the experts. Please interview more than one. Also: Those platoons of amateur videographers you showed standing watch at Federal Heights, the prescribed vista for shooting UFOs — have they caught anything? Did you look at their footage? And sorry, you DO know what else to do, you even mentioned it on the show: conduct some triangulating camera work. The good news is, the story’s getting a toe-hold with the MSM; even an east coast NPR station found it compelling enough for a decent segment.

Memo to Fox 31: If you’re serious about sliding down this sucking black rabbit hole, broaden your scope and check out journalist Leslie Kean’s report on the Chilean UFO footage first. Same buggie issues, no resolution. But maybe the Denver footage will contain something unique and quantifiable. Better yet: Four days remain before ratings month ends Friday. Just play it straight, keep pounding, and your competitors will be whiteboarding their own UFO coverage come February.

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