Thursday, October 7, 2010

LAPD jet-packs: Just what they need to combat Bat-Boy

On October 4th, Fox News Channel mis-reported something.

I will let that sink in for a moment.

During their morning news program, they ran a story about the LAPD buying 10,000 jetpacks, at a cost of $100,000 each.

In fairness to them, and as the video shows, they quickly issued a correction.
But about 40 minutes later, co-host Steve Doocy came on with the disappointing news. “Earlier we were talking about jetpacks where you can fly around, and it looked like the LAPD was going to buy a whole bunch,” said Doocy. “Turns out they’re not going to. Which means Brian, more for you.” That’s right, the jetpacks do exist – reported on it back in March.
But. This should never have gotten to air.

For crying out loud, the story came from the Weekly World News Website.
The first commercially developed jetpack, The Martin jetpack, is ready for mass production and will soon be released to the public. The City of Los Angeles has already ordered 10,000 jetpacks for its police, paramedics and fire department. “We’ll all be flying around L.A. soon,” said Mayor Antonio Villaragoisa. “And it’s another great tool for law enforcement.”
If the story wasn't absurd enough on its face, shouldn't the fact that the Weekly World News website contains navigation bar selections such as "mutants," and "aliens," and prominently features stories about "Bat Boy" be enough to tip you off that you should maybe obtain some kind of independent verification before running your cockamamie story?

I actually didn't know The Weekly World News still existed. I used to occasionally read it when it was a print publication, available on the same grocery store check-out racks as The National Enquirer (which used to own it), and other national tabloids.

It was clearly intended as a parody, with occasional satire. As the great filmmaker and writer John Waters wrote in his essay "Why I Love the National Enquirer," reprinted in his fantastic book Crackpot,
But even more insane and ludicrous is the Enquirer's bad stepchild, the one they never talk about, the rag put out apparently to utilize the old Enquirer's black-and-white press -- the Weekly World News. Closer in spirit to the old "I Ate My Baby" Enquirer before it got upscale enough to be sold in the supermarket, this fanatical, right-wing prime example of hepatitis-yellow journalism seems to be popular with illiterates and, not surprisingly, shock-loving hard-core punks and New Wavers.... The News' editorial policy can best be summed up by one of its stories: "Russkies Vow...We'd Blast Santa Out of Our Skies!" Whatever the rage in the other tabloids, they'll go further: "Ape Gives Birth to Human Baby" or "Vigilante Kills 27 Muggers." Sometimes their stories cheer me up considerably: "Good News for Smokers -- It's Good For You."
So it would seem that the News hasn't changed all that much.

A friend of mine, in response to an ad in Daily Variety, actually wrote a couple of articles for them. He might not want me to call him out by name here, so I won't. But the Variety ad made it clear that the stories were intended to be humorous -- they were specifically looking for humor/comedy writers.

Anyway, in a world in which the Balloon Boy can get wall-to-wall live coverage for hours (remember when a nation held its collective breaths, waiting with baited breath breathlessly as the image of that floating balloon took our breath away?) and in which the magnificent Kenny Strasser AKA K-Strass can continue to book appearances on local newscasts as a "yo-yo champion," should we be surprised by this?

Is it worthy of my devoting as much time and space to it as I have just now, in putting together this post? Well, it probably wouldn't be, except that CNN decided to have a little fun with it, putting their irritating "lighter side of the news" "reporter" Jeanne Moos on the case. The video can be found here (embed was disabled by request of CNN, which apparently has a lot less confidence in its reporters than Fox News does -- Fox doesn't care that I embed the clip of their stupid mistake).

Anyway, as Mediaite reports:
Well, you had to figure it wouldn’t be long before someone in the media took a look at such a glaring error, and today, CNN’s Jeanne Moos delivered on The Situation Room. Wolf Blitzer teased the segment saying the story “had one major news network fooled,” but the mistake appeared to have CNN delighted. Moos especially reveled in the fact that Fox & Friends‘ source was the Weekly World News, and made several references to that publication’s most famous creation, Bat Boy.
Yes, isn't it hilarious that Fox News went off half-cocked about a ridiculous story! CNN would never report on something without getting all the facts.

Oh, wait:
In fairness to Fox & Friends, though, they did correct themselves later in the show and admitted the LAPD hadn’t really bought any jetpacks – a correction Moos didn’t mention. Video of her segment below: watch it and marvel that the Weekly World News made it into the actual news cycle.

Update: Ms. Moos tells Mediaite that while she was crashing the piece for Situation Room, they didn’t realize that Fox News had made the admission. “Within minutes of crashing that version, we updated the piece to include the Fox admission.”
So, in fairness to CNN, they were so anxious to get out a story that made their rivals look bad that they didn't do all their research before running with it.

Actually, in this case, I don't think it's all that bad, since about 40 minutes elapsed between the time of the original cockamamie story and the halfhearted correction. CNN comes out on top on this one. But that's like being the tallest jockey.

However, we should never forget that CNN employed for a number of years the despicable Rick Sanchez, a man who committed a hit-and-run, went home to (as his lawyer explained) have a few drinks to calm his nerves, then returned over an hour later with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit.

Their newest program, Parker Spitzer, features as one of its two co-hosts a man who had to resign as the governor of New York because he paid for prostitutes and attempted to get his bank to defraud the IRS.

And of course they still employ Wolf Blitzer, the man who scored -$4,600 on Celebrity Jeopardy:

Celebrity Jeoprady. The version of Jeopardy that's even easier than the Teen Tournament.

I could go on. I haven't even mentioned the ridiculous Larry King. My point is that CNN doesn't have anything to brag about. Those in glass houses should not call the kettle black, as they say. And CNN's kettle is definitely made of glass.

All television news kettles are glass.

 If only the police had jet packs -- the Mini Cooper chase might not have crossed state lines.

Bat Boy pic source.

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