Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Media Made Mothman Mainstream – in 1966

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

MothmanBig Foot. The Loch Ness Monster. The Abominable Snowman. All are a part of folklore and legend yet some believe are entities existing outside the realm of traditional science or nature. Like UFOs, they are typically considered by mainstream society and certainly the media with tongue-in-cheek – at worst hoaxes and at best misunderstood but explainable, naturally occurring phenomenon. And then there is Mothman.

Least known of the so-called ‘cryptids’ of lore yet most seen and covered by media over an extended time period, Mothman has been the subject of numerous theories and speculation for more than 50 years.  Is it a bird, a plane or something more? screamed the headlines in scores of newspapers in and around Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966 and, soon, across the country.  The Point Pleasant Register, Herald-Dispatch, Charleston Daily Mail – all covered extensively what would soon become, over a year’s time, hundreds of sightings of an entity the size of a large man yet possessing the wings of a bird and, most prominently and unforgettably, witnesses described, red, mesmerizing eyes.

Last week, I visited the small town of Point Pleasant on my travels. I had previously read about Mothman in the past, most notably after the release, in 2003, of the Richard Gere’s “The Mothman Prophesies,” a movie based largely on the book of the same name by reporter John Keel.  What has always fascinated me is how local media covered the sightings – as legitimate, front-page news – perhaps like no other mainstream press before or since.  This was not a joke; it appeared, but a series of eyewitness accounts over many months that put a community on edge.  Leading the charge for area news was Mary Hyre of the Athens Messenger. A society reporter for the paper, Hyre knew virtually everyone in the 5,000-person community.  As such, when one and then scores of individuals kept seeing the same, unexplainable thing, she vetted them, believed them, and quoted them in print. This was no ‘one and done’ story but one with legs (and wings).

The tale would ultimately culminate with the tragic collapse, in December 1967, of the Silver Bridge, which for years had joined West Virginia and Ohio across the Ohio River.  Nearly 50 people were killed.  UFO sightings, ‘Men in Black’ appearances and a host of other strangeness had also perplexed citizens during this Mothman time period.  After the collapse, the creature was not seen again (or has he? see below).

Since that time, countless books, movies, an annual festival and a Mothman Museum (hosting clips of much of the media coverage I described previously) have all kept the legend alive as questions persist.  Was Mothman an angel? Devil? A harbinger of doom? Were his appearances a warning of the disaster that would soon befall the community? In November 2016, photographs from a man purporting to have seen and photographed Mothman were shown by a local TV station.  The anchor smiled and joked and, no doubt, the story ran at the very end of the newscast.  Google the local papers and you will find no coverage listed online.  Which begs the question: Should we remain skeptical of such phenomenon or retain an open mind? More recent history suggests we gravitate toward the former when perhaps we should lean a bit more to the latter. Certainly times have changed, especially in an era of video hoaxes and photoshopping. Still, who really knows? After all, at one time the world was flat and the sun revolved around the earth.

 

 

America Must Think, Talk, Act as One

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 10.54.43 AMScary. Disheartening. Tragic. Wrong.  All of us can come up many, many more words and sentiments to describe what has transpired not just in past days but years and decades in this country. But what do we do with those words and sentiments – most recently with possibly race-related events in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas – in terms of putting thoughts and potential solutions into action? And, let’s not forget Orlando.

Detroit Free Press reporter Rochelle Riley’s article in this morning’s paper suggests exactly that in its headline: “Tragedies Should Fuel Conversation.” Importantly, she describes the senselessness of all of these deaths including those of the police offers gunned down, terming them acts of ‘domestic terrorism’ against ‘community soldiers’. Rochelle Riley is an outstanding columnist with a large following and reputation for telling it like it is.  She is also African American and, for this article at this time, that is important.

If you saw the movie “Selma” you saw recounted a pivotal time in the civil rights movement led by perhaps one of history’s greatest advocates for equality, Dr. Martin Luther King, King worked tirelessly to affect change – albeit accomplished peacefully. Violence, as he espoused, is never the answer on either side of this equation. Neither is merely conversation.  Positive, corrective action, however, is essential.

So how is this accomplished? Can racism ever be vanquished once and for all? We must start with an overriding principal and understanding that all lives matter. We must move beyond stereotypes based on race and socioeconomics. Communities and police need to come together to talk and listen to each other; to work to understand each other in an effort to un-do dangerous adversarial dynamics. And, of course, that coming together needs to happen at all levels of society.

As far as police procedures and tactics go (and I realize I am way out of my element here), stops and approaches have to be handled with a different mind set.  Any stop can be potentially dangerous for a police officer, however, if they are based on unfounded racial profiling, the potential for force is already there.  As for weapons (again, no expert here), what about (in particular for “routine” events) giving law officers a greater range of options, such as tasers and rubber bullets – articles designed to stun and incapacitate rather than maim and kill? More intense training overall appears to be sorely needed as well.

I am an expert in communications and, bringing this full circle and back to Riley’s column, it starts there: with communication.  Rational, open-minded individuals can find a common ground.  By talking. By educating. By working together. By identifying a shared purpose and potential solutions.  People are people. The key is to treat each other that way.

 

 

The Publication of Independence

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 7.23.08 PMToday, news dissemination and consumption are virtually real-time and immediate. Social media, cell phones and the internet all ensure what is posted can and will be seen as soon as certain information is written and shared.  Of course, not all that long ago that was not the case.  Go even further back to earlier centuries and the passing on of particular news could take weeks if not months – typically moving via letter and, later, newspapers.  So, how long did it take for the colonies, England and the world to learn of America’s independence in 1776 – and who and what spread that news?

A fascinating look comes from AllThingsLiberty.com and a piece by Todd Andrik, researched and written in a recent year. The article recounts how, on July 2, 1776, Congress voted for independence and approved the text of its official declaration two days later on the holiday we celebrate. This news of independence from England was first reported in the July 2nd Pennsylvania Evening Post and on July 3rd by the Pennsylvania Gazette. Full text of the Declaration of Independence was then made available on July 4th.

Across the pond in England, however, news moved a bit slower, with the announcement coming via ship-sent letter, written July 7th from a stateside General to a London Lord, arriving the second week of August. As such, the August 10th issue of the London Gazette reported for the first time to the English masses of the decision by the colonies to break away from the motherland and of the resulting Declarations of War.  It wouldn’t be until 1777, however, that the American public would learn the names of all 55 signers of the Declaration via a printed broadside (or pamphlet) commissioned by Congress. (Note: the 56th signature came later).

And so word of perhaps the most momentous occasion in American history was communicated to the masses in not an immediate yet still surprisingly short period of time.  The power of the press had previously informed the people of tyrannical actions by England and fervently stirred the Patriots to revolution.  The great thirst for independence could then only be quenched by action – and the timely and accurate reporting of that action; a free press and soon-to-be free country working hand in hand toward liberty.