Â Â Â Bad news for the Nov. 12 âUFOs: Encounters by Generals, Pilots and Government Officialsâ conference at American University â Miles OâBrien is out.
âIâve had to cancel my participation in this event because of another assignment,â the PBS science correspondent and former CNN anchor stated in an email to De Void. âI have no problem addressing this issue and have done so publicly in the past. And I intend to in the future. Iâm just too busy right now.â
John Weiskopf, the AU film professor whoâs sponsoring the panel discussion, hasnât settled on a replacement, but âwe are working on it,â he writes. âIt will be somebody good.â
If only. You’d stand a better chance of starting a turtle feather collection than of booking a blue-chip mainstream journalist who knows beans about The Great Taboo. About the only sure-fire things that pass for UFO coverage these days are breezy little blurbs about ambiguous images in the night sky. Hereâs the latest and, swear to god, when I first read about this one it sounded so familiar I thought they were flogging the same dead horse from August.
A smudgy image appeared off the ISS during a spacewalk on Oct. 7, as two astronauts attempted to recover a kaput cooling pump. When the sequence was uploaded to YouTube last week, the âalien spacecraftâ speculation began, predictable as flies on slop. There were diverse culprits like the San Jose Mercury News, which did zero digging but managed to post a quickie, headlined âVideo: Did a UFO photobomb a NASA space video?â Ultimately, given the UFOâs perfect synchronization with the ISS movements, sources quoted by the UK tabloid Daily Mail (the only outlet to bother with picking up a phone) attributed the mystery to either lens flare or a camera artifact.
Missing from this mix, of course, was any feedback at all from NASA, which failed to reply to The Mailâs queries. The space agency, which has traditionally done a lousy job of promoting its assets, also declined comment on a carbon-copy incident back in August. They have their reasons. NASA could probably staff an entire UFO hotline desk to explain lens flare and camera artifacts and it still wouldnât make any difference. People will see what they want to see.
Still, thereâs a vacuum here, and itâs the reason we need informed, persistent, and open-minded reporting â not doctrinaire pseudo-skepticism â to run interference. Despite the mindless clutter, weird things do happen, in space and closer to the ground. Finding journalists smart and inquisitive enough to know the difference is a virtual foolâs errand these days. Good luck, John Weiskopf.