I had a conversation on March 31, 1995 that I will never forget.
I was a 24-year-old editor and April Fool’s Day was going to fall on our big weekend edition. We had seen some newspapers from our history where reporters had made up fake stories to play with gullible readers on April 1 editions.
So we were sitting around the newsroom tossing around, “Football Coach resigns, takes up soccer” and “Space Shuttle to land at city airport” headlines that we all thought were hilarious. Trust me, people who work in a newsroom find humor in things that few other people would think were funny.
But our new publisher just happened to come into that meeting and asked what was so funny. We told him and he got really serious before telling me we weren’t doing any such edition.
“It takes a lot of work to gain credibility,” Reg Freemyer said. “But it is really easy to lose it.”
He went on to explain that at some point in my life in newspapers, I would have to report something where it was my word against someone else’s and I would regret sacrificing even a little of that credibility to publish fictional stories that weren’t even that funny.
That is why I don’t understand what is going on at some of my favorite geeky television stations.
First, Animal Planet goes sideways with a show about Finding Bigfoot. I don’t even know for certain if I hope the guys on there are true believers or the worst breed of hucksters. Either way, the show diminishes any standing Animal Planet had as a “science” channel.
Then, the channel runs a couple of “mockumentaries” about mermaids. Based on wild tales, the producers faked some interviews with “mermaid experts” – who I can only assume loved the movie Splash with Tom Hanks – and created a fake science show complete with a fake news show that aired right after it.
But now they have gone too far. They have cheapened Shark Week.
Instead of incredible footage of great white sharks jumping out of the water to eat seals or evidence of pack hunting among a species of shark, we got Megalodon. This faked investigation of a whether a species known to be extinct for more than 2 million years still exists was really troubling.
They mixed in those few instances where a species was thought to be extinct but really wasn’t – the Lazarus species – to make viewers wonder if somewhere in that big blue sea if the huge shark dinosaur could still exist.
Page 2 of 2 - It is one thing when Tara Reid stars in a show called Sharknado. It is much different when the home of Mythbusters produces fake science. What is next, a look at whether Jurasic Park could really happen?
Shark Week has jumped the shark.
I hate it because I have to explain to my favorite little nerds-in-training that sometimes even scientists like to have a little fun and make fictional movies about seemingly serious subjects.
The problem comes when they see other evidence on other shows and have to wonder if it is real or faked.
I hope bigfoot, mermaids and a big extinct shark brought enough ratings to make it worth flushing their credibility down the toilet.
It’s really too bad my old publisher wasn’t in that production meeting. It could have saved them all a lot of trouble.