On newsstands now… paranormal pandering from previously reputable sources

National Geographic has a special issue out featuring “Strange But True: Secrets of the Supernatural Revealed”:

Strange But True: Secrets of the Supernatural Revealed features the most wildly popular, incredibly weird, and totally true stories that only National Geographic could discover. Ripped from the headlines of National Geographic Daily News, these often weird, sometimes miraculous stories are presented with both engaging text and lively images.

Some highlights include:
-Incredible flying sharks
-Mind-controlling fungus that turn ants into zombies
-The potent “corpse flower” discovered in Madagascar

Hmm. None of those highlights are SUPERnatural. They are all natural. What are they trying to do with this issue?

Bigfoot_cover_1024x1024Also on newsstands is a special edition of Newsweek featuring Bigfoot.

Why would Newsweek do a “Collector’s Edition” on Bigfoot? What is the news on Bigfoot? There isn’t any. There is, as usual, a lot of baseless speculation, wishful thinking, and failures to obtain decent evidence. Note the cover blurb says they include info on DNA techniques (yet, neither hyped DNA study of the past few years found evidence for Bigfoot), and migration and speech patterns. Since a Bigfoot has never been found, no one can actually say how they talk or migrate. To suggest so is absurd.

Newsweek’s blurb about this issue is just as silly:

Get in on the hunt with Newsweek as we uncover the truth behind one of the greatest and most controversial legends on earth—Bigfoot! Witness the sites and read the eyewitness accounts that include none other than our 26th president, Teddy Roosevelt! Learn the difference between Bigfoot, a Sasquatch, a yeti and the Abominable Snowman. Find out when and where Sasquatch sightings have occurred and review the facts and fiction from a panel of experts, including Survivorman Les Stroud, who have been tracking Bigfoot for decades. This 100-page, illustrated, special collector’s edition might just have you start your own journey to find Bigfoot!

If it’s the “truth” then they should say that there is nothing new – that will disappoint readers. The Teddy Roosevelt bit? Oh my gosh, I can’t believe they conflated his telling of a legendary tall tale with an eyewitness account! That’s some very poor journalism.

Wait, since when is Les Stroud an “expert” on Bigfoot?! Someone needs to look up the word “expert”.

This publication sounds like something to line the bottom of the bird cage and I’m only on the cover page!

The online stock of this issue is sold out, maybe because most of us would be too embarrassed to buy this in real life, or, Bigfoot is really popular. Coverage by Newsweek elevates this topic in importance.

Both these publications have been seen in the “wild” on newsstands. They do exist!

With the NatGeo issue, it could be another case of a hyped cover that does not accurately reflect the content. Last September, Popular Science produced a similar “special” issue on paranormal topics called Mistakes and Hoaxes – 100 Things Science Got Wrong. I saw it on the newsstand and did buy it (for $13.99). It included topics like the moon landing hoax, pyramids on the moon, dowsing, chemtrails, crop circles, Bigfoot, Loch Ness monster, and the Atacama alien – even though none of these subjects are given credence by science. While it did include some skeptical comments, it gave these topics recognition that they do not deserve.

screen-shot-2015-09-05-at-7-47-01-pmImagine my surprise when I found myself quoted in it.

The majority of the PopSci content was not related to the cover theme presented. It seemed like a way to sensationalize and sell a pile of copies to impulse-buyers fascinated by “mysteries”. It had little to do with what “science got wrong”. I doubt many of those who purchased it because of the promising cover would become regular subscribers to the publication.

Why did these reputable publications pander to that audience, and, at the same time, annoy their core readership with the lower fare? It’s similar to Discovery Channel and Animal Planet (and other “informational” channels) airing abysmally bad shows on exorcisms, mermaids, megalodon and Bigfoot. That didn’t work out well; these publications might want to note that such moves can cost them readership in the long run.

The Popular Science edition was not well done. Any competent writer could have looked up this basic info and presented it in the various pieces. It was not worth the money. The NatGeo special sells for $13.99 and the Bigfoot special issue for $9.99.  I’ll not be buying either but will perhaps try to find it in the library to peruse.

Have you read either of these new sensationalistic issues? Let us know and what you thought. Meanwhile, I’ve knocked down these three publications a notch for pandering to ignorance and mystery-mongering, even if only on the cover.

  21 comments for “On newsstands now… paranormal pandering from previously reputable sources

  1. Bill T.
    November 30, 2015 at 12:34 PM

    Particularly broadcas NG has been about hyperbole (“biggest”, “oldest”, “deadliest”, …) with little substantive content for a long time. That the print version is following was predictable.

  2. sgtdenver
    November 30, 2015 at 1:22 PM

    The book “Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend” by Joshua Blu Buhs convinced me that Bigfoot doesn’t exist.

  3. Anomalous
    November 30, 2015 at 3:06 PM

    Not that surprising. Rupert Murdoch just purchased National Geographic and his first action was to fire its best editors, writers, photographers and artists. Expect more ‘sciencey’ sensational garbage and less science or geography from here on: more UFOs, paranormal crap and conspiracies; less AGW, science facts or research.

    Nat Geo – NOW with a political agenda!

    I’ve canceled my subscription and all gift subscriptions to Natl Geo. Some institutions should not be messed with.

  4. Ian
    November 30, 2015 at 3:47 PM

    Why some people get so bent out of shape when their favorite publication or a “respected” institution does a story on a paranormal topic is beyond me. Why do you care? Paranormal, ghosts, Bigfoot or whatever are part of our culture whether one is interested in the subject or not.
    For all anyone knows the Newsweek story may actually help some people understand the phenomena a little more clearly; if it is presented without bias it may actually be educational. And if it does generate some much needed revenue for the publication, That would be a good thing right?

  5. Christine Rose
    November 30, 2015 at 4:25 PM

    Well, if it were presented without bias it would explain how Bigfoot is a cultural phenomenon and how the evidence is overwhelmingly against it existing. Publications like Skeptical Inquirer do this all the time, and they are favored and respected and educational. Any presentation that makes it look like there is a real chance a Bigfoot exists is biased.

    Some people are rather attached to the idea of truth in general, and truth in the media, at least in some identifiable subset of the media, in particular. You seem to have some sort of emotional attachment to these stories. Others have emotional attachment to reality. And keep in mind, many, many people are harmed by these things. There are Bigfoot tour guides who take money from people. Do those people have an accurate idea of how poor the evidence for Bigfeet are? And of course medical silliness kills people at regular intervals.

  6. Richard Murray
    November 30, 2015 at 7:07 PM

    @Anomalous: Looking through the National Geographic store, it would appear Rupert Murdoch must be a time traveller…

    National Geographic has been doing it for years, though. People act like Rupert Murdoch issued a command from on high. However a spot check of the publication dates of books in their store dealing with natural remedies and the like are over the last 5 years.

    All these have the National Gegraphic logo and / or name on the front cover;

    Complete Guide to Natural Home Remedies 2014
    Foods For Health 2014
    Life Is Your Best Medicine 2012
    Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine 2006
    Healthy At Home 2014 (Stay Well Without Prescriptions)

    March 2015 was amusing on the news stand, though.


  7. One Eyed Jack
    November 30, 2015 at 7:25 PM

    When respected publications present fantasy as fact, how do people without a skeptical eye know the difference? A large percentage of the public has a very low setting on their BS detectors. They will take any speculation presented in print as fact.

    We live in a time where there are very few news sources outside of professional journals that can be counted on to publish vetted, factual stories. So, it is disheartening to see another respected publication pandering to sensationalism.

  8. David H
    November 30, 2015 at 7:36 PM

    I had been a member of the National Geographic Society since about 1969.
    Until recently, membership was the only way to subscribe to the magazine. Back in the 60’s through the early 80’s the magazine offered fairly in-depth articles supported by excellent photography along with high quality illustrations ans excellent maps.
    Over the last 15-20 years, there has been a steady decline in the articles, as the magazine shifted to its current pretty picture format. About the same time National Geographic started showing up in magazine racks in my local grocery store (often displayed inches away from The National Enquirer, TV guide and the late lamented Weekly World News) I finally gave up on my subscription.
    And now they’ve sold out to FOX, I don’t expect to see any improvement.

    BTW, Whats the cover story for December?
    MARY The Most Powerful Woman in the World.
    Yep, Jesus’ Mom . . .

  9. maus
    November 30, 2015 at 9:44 PM

    “Why some people get so bent out of shape when their favorite publication or a “respected” institution does a story on a paranormal topic is beyond me. Why do you care? Paranormal, ghosts, Bigfoot or whatever are part of our culture whether one is interested in the subject or not.”

    A perfect example of the low interest average-joe audience Murdoch is trying to appeal to,

    Ghosts and Bigfoot belong in trash supermarket tabloids (no insult intended to Weekly World News) not in ostensibly naturalist/reality-based magazines. I enjoy silly topics. I don’t want them being taught as fact in schools.

  10. Dolores
    November 30, 2015 at 10:43 PM

    Expect issues on “How scientists have hoaxed global warming” and “the genetic advantages of being an Aryan”

  11. Dolores
    November 30, 2015 at 11:14 PM

    “Presented without bias”?
    This sounds like the false equivalence fallacy.
    So is your view is that any crackpot idea should be presented as a “50-50” proposition? How does that help the general public get a grip on reality?
    How does it help your kids find helpful sources ? Get into college?
    People who talk about ghosts, paranormal phenomena, UFOs, Bigfoot and other nonsense might as well drool on their shirt fronts and light farts during interviews. They are regarded as dopes, rubes and fools.

  12. Anomalous
    December 1, 2015 at 3:03 AM


    “GMO Frankenfoods: Satan’s Poison, Or Just Unhealthy?”

    “All-Natural Cures That Are Better Than Vaccines!”

    “New Evidence: Mexicans Can Smell When You’re Afraid!”

  13. BobM
    December 1, 2015 at 11:59 PM

    I quite liked that program where they searched for Bigfoot but scientists were there and tried to explain to the people taking part what your actual evidence might be. Of course they didn’t find Bigfoot, but it showed you how stupid they are. Like mistaking Moss for Bigfoot hair. Other than that it was your typical out in the woods at night hearing a sound and saying “that’s a ‘squach. As if they would know. Another very sensible program along those lines was a British documentary on so-called large cats. They called in a Canadian fur trapper who looked at all the tracks, the scat, the hair, the bite marks and just kept saying dog – dog – dog :-).

  14. BobM
    December 2, 2015 at 12:02 AM

    Hell, when I was a boy National Geographic was the only way you could get to see boobies. Playboy hadn’t arrived in the country yet. So we didn’t actually care about the in-depth articles in the brilliant photography. Strange that only “native” boobies were allowed though. Well, not that strange, we all knew what drove that.

  15. Brandon
    December 2, 2015 at 5:57 AM

    I think you are talking about the ’10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty.’ The scientists on that show were interviewed on the MonsterTalk podcast.

  16. December 2, 2015 at 6:44 AM

    I came across your site while researching the Manson family and trial fiasco. Your brief article on Manson’s wacky girlfriend and failed engagement was helpful. I’ve recently returned to thumb through your site.

    Before I leave the topic of Manson, doesn’t he seem awfully tan for a lifetime prisoner? Maybe that can be explained away with a tanning bed or spray-on tanner. But you’d have to agree that his facial hair definitely constitutes a beard, which haven’t been allowed in California prisons for years. I might be seeing things. He’s always seemed an anomaly, especially how he was so often being granted interviews which were allowed by the prisons against their own policies. Now I read that he’s been granted conjugal visits, which are also not permitted. Oh well.

    The reason I’m writing is to suggest that I would be much more pleased to find you critiquing the truly overwhelming torrent of “doubtful news” published by the major news outlets. All of this analysis of the paranormal, religious and extraterrestrial stuff is being covered pretty well. What the world needs more of is hyper-critical analysis of corrupt and evil institutions, largely governmental, scientific and academic. We need heretics like never before.

    To better understand where I’m coming from, it might help to know that I don’t suspect that extraterrestrials are real. Neither do I suspect life exists on other planets in distant corners of the universe. Wha?! So, you might think, ah ha. This guy is simply a Christian with fundamentalist ideology. Not so. I wasn’t raised in a religious home and don’t subscribe to any particular religion. I haven’t accepted Jesus as my lord and savior. Given that, how then could I also suspect that evolution is a fraud? Again, wha?! Indeed. It was in reading your recent article on Ben Carson, in which you stated that it was well established that the pyramids of Egypt were tombs that I suspected you might be chasing the wrong phenomenon. Thankfully I wasn’t subject to too much pressure from peers, schools or the scientific community to accept evolution as scientific fact. And I do appreciate science, when isolated from humanity. My cat would make a far better Egyptologist than say, any other human being.

    I won’t belabor the point that the pyramids being tombs is far from established fact. And my point in raising the issue of evolution is merely to point out that there are many views. You may be shocked to see just how many prominent scientists and museum curators over the past few decades have stated that evolution is only a theory, and a poor one at that. If you consider how scientists hammer us all with “billions” of this and “quantum” of that, you might begin to see as I did that there’s an agenda flowing through everything. You and I are meaningless. Our time in this world is but a tiny speck of crud and we must go about our lives with increasing humility as a result. That dinosaur died 1,670,200 years ago because carbon dating has revealed that fact. Sure it has. Sure it has, nerd or guy in lab coat.

    OK, I’m going to contradict myself and ask that you look into the claims of woolly mammoths still existing in remote places. Maybe that’s why so many artifacts contain imagery of people riding atop the beasts. Although from the accounts of many people they are very docile and friendly to humans, much like the common elephant.

    Anyway, my point is to say that what you think you know is probably not all that. I’m very comfortable knowing that I know so little. What truly pisses me off though, is when everyone puts so much “faith” in all of the expertologists crowding the halls of trusted institutions. If you’re looking for “doubtful news” then you should try looking into “the media.” You know, in a court of law things reported by the media are inadmissible as hearsay. That couldn’t possibly include reports by Anderson Cooper, or Frontline?! Neither have reported anything truthful, or should I say anything that wasn’t tainted by a deceptive or misleading premise in years. Crack that nut, and you’ll lose all your friends and become ostracized. But you’ll be telling the truth as best as “you” can.

  17. Badd_KungFu
    December 2, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    i stopped reading NG quite a while ago. i got sick of the elitist attitude bleeding thru their articles. they seem to believe that underdeveloped countries should remain so, and their citizens should be content in their mud huts happily serving drinks to ecotourists.

  18. Rich
    December 2, 2015 at 1:00 PM

    Yeah, I hate experts. All that time they spend testing things and learning stuff and then they have the nerve to claim they know more about things and stuff than I do.

  19. busterggi (Bob Jase)
    December 2, 2015 at 4:57 PM

    yeah! Damned ‘experts’ think collecting data and examining results is better than common sense! Why don’t they study something important like how the Chinese manage to stick to the planet when their half is upside down?

  20. December 2, 2015 at 5:15 PM

    Try being more pithy with your comments. Thx.

  21. December 3, 2015 at 7:46 PM

    Dr. Todd weighs in.
    From Todd Disotell, Facebook

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