One of the fundamentals of journalism is accuracy and one of the chief responsibilities of a reporter is to verify information first and not just slap it on-line, on the air or into print.
But once in a while a story comes along that, as the saying goes, is just too good to check out. A major British newspaper apparently had one of these moments the other day. The London Sunday Times ran an article headlined: “If Mars attacks, she’s our leader.” It said the United Nations was about to designate Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman to be, in effect, the official greeter for any aliens that might arrive on Earth.
Ms. Othman serves as Director of the little-known U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).
Seems a natural choice, right?
There is just one problem. When I checked with UNOOSA about the article, here is what they said:
“The article in the Sunday Times is nonsense.”
But aliens and UFO’s are popular topics. In fact this seems to have been an “alien-UFO” week. Besides the Othman story (or non-story), there was also a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington by some former U.S. Air Force officers who asserted unidentified flying objects hovered near nuclear missile sites as recently as 2003, causing several missiles to malfunction.
You can see some of the presentation here.
In the pursuit of fair and balanced journalism, I turned to the Pentagon to see if they had any response to the former Air Force officers. I was directed to an Air Force Fact Sheet on Unidentified Flying Objects which states:
“No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security… and there was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as "unidentified" were extraterrestrial vehicles.”
One more alien-UFO connection. I happened to watch a new U.S. TV show called “The Event” this week. Interestingly, one of the key plot elements of this fictional thriller involves prisoners held in a secret compound in Alaska who are -- you guessed it -- aliens who crash-landed on Earth in 1944. They look just like us (though they don’t age as rapidly) and some of the aliens that survived the crash escaped, blending in with the human population.
Maybe that explains the occasionally strange behavior of news organizations?
[Note: the photo above is from the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force says "Aliens" observed in the New Mexico desert were actually anthropomorphic test dummies that were carried aloft by U.S. Air Force high altitude balloons for scientific research.]