Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Enlightened Moment

Occasionally, while watching a movie, I gain additional insight into the world around me -- especially if it's part of the world I've experienced.

Tonight, for example, I was watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the way home from work. Got to the part where the U.S. Air Force is holding the press conference just after Gillian announces Barry has been kidnapped by aliens. (In case you're going bug-eyed, thinking I'm going to regale you with a close encounter of my very own, relax.) Roy Neary starts to make the point -- a valid one -- that the Air Force officials can't blow them group off "by agreeing with them" that they'd like to see the lights in the sky too, the whacko stands up and says "I've seen Bigfoot before." All eyes -- and the cameras, journalists with pencils, et cetera -- immeidately swing to him, and Roy Neary gets this very disgusted look on his face while his wife nods and smiles smugly. She knows what's going to happen next.

The insight is this: Journalists are attracted to the whackos. I know I was when I was a journalist. And nine times out of ten, in group settings like this, it's the person who says the nuttiest thing who is introduced into the story as balance to what the officials are saying, rather than the fellow --in this case, Roy -- who is starting to make a logical argument that, unfortunately for the news, won't make a good sound bite. Although his intro is good, the reporters would have to go into a lot of exposition and explanation, taking up inches of copy space and seconds of time to explain it all. Better to go with the weirdo.

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