Last week, Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) conducted a Q & A with Leslie Kean, the author of UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record.
It is impressive that CJR took on the subject of UFOs. The journal, for professional journalists, is published by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Once I got past the awkward start of the article, the rest of it was quite good.
Journalist Clint Hendler conducted the Q & A with Kean. Hendler covers politics and government transparency issues for the Columbia Journalism Review. He is a former staff member of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. His work has been published by The New York Times, The Independent, and other highly respectable publications. He is a good journalist.
The article was also good. However, I had to read the subtitle of the article twice. At first, I thought Hendler used the cliché statement, “The truth is out there”, as an article subtitle. Instead he asked the question: “Is the truth out there?”.
The only issue that I had with the article was the first paragraph, which I found to be typical awkward UFO reporting by the mainstream media:
Leslie Kean has written an unusual book on an unusual subject: Unidentified flying objects. But this Halloween weekend, Kean would like you to get any pictures of little green men you might have out of your mind.
I wondered about how Hendler came to associate Halloween with UFOs. Sure, the piece was published on Halloween. Alien costumes are popular on Halloween. Perhaps the 1938 Halloween radio broadcast of the Mercury Theatre’s The War of The Worlds is burned into brains more than I thought. Whatever the reason, if Hendler had read Kean’s response to one of his questions, he could have come up with a better opening statement for that article. Kean clearly stated:
People assume UFOs are, one, a question of belief and, two, the reason they’re a question of belief is because the term means alien spacecraft. Neither of those things are accurate. It was very important to me to make it clear from the beginning that nobody is claiming to know what the UFOs are.
Other than that, the article was great and I’ll tell you why: Leslie Kean’s words fill the majority of the article.
In fact, I’ve noticed that the majority of interviews with Kean are Q & A pieces, since journalists are unsure how to handle the topic of UFOs. Perhaps if they pull any of her articles from news archives, they might de-construct it and realize that Kean simply presents the facts. The reporting is no different than what is learned in journalism schools all over the world.
The subject matter, however, does require some research. Kean has spent more than two decades performing that research as a freelance investigative journalist. So perhaps, for now, it is best to let Kean’s words fill the majority of such articles. I suppose it’s also safer in this age of the advertising driven news media to do that. It’s a good first step anyway.
Aside from that, kudos to CJR for publishing this piece and for allowing Kean to present her own words, once again, to the masses. For this article, the intended reading audience includes journalists and journalism students. Regardless, it is a good article for anyone to check out.