The Internet can sometimes take a story and run it through the news cycle at breakneck speed. One media will start the race by posting the story and then everybody else jumps on the train and tries to give you their take on what has happened and (sometimes) why.
Other times, a story gets a free ride on the news merry-go-round.
Like a ‘story’ from 2012 that actually made it to Yahoo! News….a shame they don’t have their own TV-station…I’d love to hear the news anchor start every broadcast with a ‘Welcome to Yahoo! News’ (exclamation mark, of course, verbalized), and then go straight to a story about something terrible…it would be like some odd real-life incarnation of the news reader from Monty Python’s ‘And now for something completely different’ come to life…
Right, on to the story: a Russian scientist named Leonid Ksanfomaliti, who is an astronomer at the Space Research Institute of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, had taken a closer look at photographs taken by a Russian landing probe sent to Venus in 1982. His conclusion was somewhat startling: Ksanfomaliti claimed the pictures showed evidence of life on Venus. Ksanfomaliti said the photographs depicted objects resembling a “disk,” a “black flap” and a “scorpion.”
He published his findings in Solar System Research, a magazine owned by the Springer corporation (no, not Jerry Springer, though I like where you’re coming from).
“What if we forget about the current theories about the non-existence of life on Venus?” he wrote, according to the story on Yahoo! News. “Let’s boldly suggest that the objects’ morphological features would allow us to say that they are living.”
Now taking a closer look at Solar System Research shows that it’s not exactly the most heavily downloaded magazine going.
Now I’m not knocking Springer here. The company publishes a myriad of scientific magazines including the New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science and books like Corrosion for Everybody. And Solar System Research, obviously. However, the fact that the magazine doesn’t seem that popular would suggest that it’s not exactly in the top ten of where astronomers really want to be published…or should that be observed?
And all this beggars the question: why did Yahoo! News report on this?
My quick answer would be that it’s something they’re picked up and found funny/interesting/bonkers and thought ‘hey, we say that it’s someone else that’s actually reporting on this and then we can wallow in the scientific mud without getting our clothes dirty.’ Add the fact that they actually got this story through what I’m guessing is a subsidiary called the Daily Caller and use that as the source and Yahoo! News is still a place to go for serious science news, plus they probably got a lot of hits on this story. Why yes, their response to that was most likely a Yahoo!
Now, like is the case with Solar System Research, I really don’t know that much about the Daily Caller. A quick look around their site does, however, reveal that they are home to catchy headlines like: “Ask Matt Labash: Killing fish vs. seeing hookers, The Lamest Generation (Boomers), and the virtue of mystery” and “Guns don’t kill people, the mentally ill do”. OK, the first would make Monty Python pretty happy, but when considering that the second hides an opinion piece by everyone’s favorite to win ‘Prettiest Wicked Witch of the West’ if that competition was ever staged, the conservative…hrmmh, insert own derogatory term here, Ann Coulter, it sends shivers down my back and might make you want to call the Daily Caller what I called them just now….and it definitely means that the science news on a certain news site could be considered very far from Yahoo!