After reviewing America Unearthed Tuesday night, I was a little too tired to spend too much time writing again yesterday for posting today. Staying up past 11 PM has become a lot harder since having a kid, and the fact that I had a 7 AM appointment the next morning only made it worse. So, today I want to spend only a few minutes highlighting some of the questionable statements that journalist Ralph Blumenthal made to Mike Damante of Punk Rock and UFOs in discussing his recent story reporting on the claims of some Navy officers who will appear on Friday’s History Channel show Unidentified, the network’s show made in conjunction with To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, whose work Blumenthal and writing partner Leslie Kean have been feeding off of for almost two years. The pair have steadfastly refused to disclose to readers their conflicts of interest, including their relationship with To the Stars and Kean’s founding of a UFO advocacy group. Imagine the Times asking an anti-abortion advocate to cover abortion for the paper, and you will start to see the problem.
Blumenthal said that editors at the Times are receptive to UFO stories, which is something I have noted from the paper’s fawning coverage of Ancient Aliens and other made-up bullshit. But I had to laugh when he said that it was hard to publish a UFO story in the Times because of the high standards of proof needed, suggesting that even he recognizes that most UFO stories are bullshit. “The editing process is very rigorous, and it is not easy for reporters like us to get these stories through because we are held to a very high standard[. G]iven the subject[,] I would say properly so,” he said.
Blumenthal took umbrage at the idea that his article covering the same material as Friday’s History Channel series premiere was timed to that series’ debut:
“We knew the History Channel had put this series together, and we watched that and give them credit in the piece, and saw what they said in the series and went after them (witnesses) because obviously we weren’t going to take it from the TV; we wanted to conduct our own interview, so we did meet with Ryan Graves in New York, and Helene spoke with Danny Accoin over the phone,” Blumenthal said. “There are many places in the paper for shows to be reviewed and featured. This was not the purpose of this article. We wanted to establish the credibility of these witnesses on our own, and not part of any other effort, program or institution. It was not reliant on anybody but our own reporting.”
Purpose or not, he admits to watching the pre-air screener for the series and then going out to talk with the people interviewed on the show. That’s pretty clear influence from TV to print. Just because they duplicated To the Stars’s efforts does not absolve them of the charge that they are following their lead.
“We really try to keep [our] distance from To The Stars because we think it helps our credibility to be separate,” Blumenthal said. That is truly an extraordinary statement. Try replacing the proper noun and then you’ll see why: “We really try to keep our distance from the Republican Party because we think it helps our credibility to be separate.” Would that give you confidence? It’s basically an admission of working toward a specific and predetermined goal, where optics counts for more than facts.
And yet, despite stating directly that he chose to write the article because of what he saw on the History Channel’s To the Stars series, he finished by saying, nonsensically, that “We aren’t taking anything from anybody.” Sure—nothing but the ideas, the interview subjects, and the overarching framework through which they interpret flying saucer sightings.
The Times deserves condemnation for allowing biased advocates with conflicts of interest to report on UFOs and mortgage the paper’s credibility in service of paranormal speculation.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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