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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How not to cover the ID controversy - and why we do it that way anyway

Here's what I told a friend who was complaining about how his national media cover the ID controversy.

Media go through at least four stages in getting comfortable with covering any new issue, including ID:

(There are more than four stages, but no national media that I know of are there yet, collectively, with ID.)

1. First, both print and broadcast media gallop in all directions at once to find traditional sources of support for their existing approaches. Prof. Bumph and Dr. Justzo are leading candidates, as is the entire Society for Circular Solidarity AND the Society for Solid Circularity. Whatever huffing, yelping or caterwauling the esteemed above can provide will certainly be reported. If media can drag foolish politicians in, they will jump at the chance. We KNOW how to cover politicians.

That should settle everything, right?

2. At stage two the story continues to develop. But it would cost a lot of time and trouble and money to find out what is really going on. So the first strategy continues, while people make stuff up to explain why the story doesn't just die. A search for weird stuff ensues. Weird stuff is more comfortable. Perhaps an enterprising Polish reporter will dig up a hermit in the Catskills who has an opinion. Perhaps he has been writing a newsletter on catfish tails for years ...

3. At stage three, most media people dig in on the #1 story approach. It conforms with what they believe. And they have put a lot of work into it already, so they must get their time and money back. And the people they don't like are pond scum. Therefore, the media people's beliefs must be true. You see, it's all so completely logical, it could be MATH, right?

No? Not quite math? Well, okay, a few desperate hacks sense that the traditional sources of explanation are not providing real answers. So they start sniffing the wind.

Friend, you must make contact with media people sniffing the wind, sensing that a new story is developing. Be polite to the others, of course.

4. The story persists, despite multiple predictions that it would fade. By now, the media people who are sniffing the wind are acquiring some expertise.

Try to understand one thing. It takes a LONG time to learn a new story, a new beat. Especially if one just happens to stumble over the story, as I did.

Then the big challenge is to find a publication that actually wants the real story. That means readers who want the real story. Only those readers can help you.

The real story, of course, is that there is no particularly good evidence for materialism unless you already believe it on faith, and that diminishes the value of Darwin's creation story of materialism. Thus, evidence against it starts to matter.

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