This is an open letter to the media from (I believe) all of us.
UPDATE: Sept. 19th, 2012 - Please read the page at http://psican.org/links/parahoneybooboo/ for an update on this letter. The letter below is now almost a decade old, and things have changed... a little.
Dear Media Folks;
First of all, I realise that MOST of you will not read this which in itself is telling.
Secondly, those that do, this letter probably doesn't reflect on you or your work but on other's in the media that we've either talked with, attempted to work with or at least, witnessed in action.
So, without further ado, please note my thoughts and concerns about some of your (or your colleagues) work.
Now, for the most part, we do appreciate your efforts trying to bring us information about the paranormal.
But it should be noted that we are ALL tired of being treated like idiots.
The day of people running about and screaming is done. The day of historical inaccuracy and information being presented strictly for 'dramatic effect' is over. To quote the great Owen Hart, "Enough is enough and it's time for a change!"
Basically, you have fed us pabulum that YOU feel sells soap. It obviously doesn't or 'ghost shows' would last longer than a season or two. On this note, the question you should ask yourself is historically, what 'paranormal' show is best known and most remembered and ran most successfully?
Answer: NOT "World's Scariest Places". NOT "MTV's Fear".
REAL Answer: The original "In Search Of..."
Now ask yourself... WHY was this one show so successful? Why do people remember it? Why don't serious researcher's crap all over it at the mention of it?
Simple... Although it was entertaining, it was informative. It treated it's subjects with respect and the people who've devoted their time to it with even more respect.
It never had Leonard Nimoy running about shrieking or getting some friggin' family from New Hampshire to do silly, non-sensible tasks under the guise of ENTERTAINMENT.
It presented one area of the paranormal per half hour with an ounce of dignity.
When I've talked to MANY people who are in the upper echelon of paranormal study, most of us balk at the media because we know your agenda is to 'entertain' before 'educate'. Maybe this is the conflict? You THINK that in order to 'entertain' you cannot 'educate', right?
Well, between "Sesame Street" and "Ken Burn's The Civil War", I'm sure you might re-think this idea.
Yup, apparently, YOU CAN be entertaining and educational!
Now, demographics wise... There are very few 'age' limits on people interested in the paranormal but there are distinct groups who would watch these shows...
People who believe People who don't believe but are interested People who are looking to debunk People who are looking for a good scare People who want to visit these places People who think that they've experienced something and are looking for answers
That's about it.
NOW, lately, you've ONLY catered to the "good scare" crowd and pretty much completely ignored the rest.
Frankly, we're insulted.
So, here's my thought and I'll tell you RIGHT NOW, if you don't do it, WE WILL. (...and we got all the best connections so NYEAH!)
Put together a show looking into the paranormal.
Re-enact the reported phenomena. This will allow you the "good scare" and/or entertainment value.
Talk to those who REALLY know the history... NOT JUST THE RESIDENT GHOST EXPERT but someone who is of a legitimate "strictly historical" background. Maybe a local historian or the like?
Then talk to a researcher on the subject... One that WILL look into all aspects of the phenomena from the normal to the paranormal. If you cannot find someone like this, talk to TWO people... NOT Debunkers but a REAL sceptic and someone who is more leaning to 'belief'. This will round out your reports.
Watch ANY "real" paranormal researcher work through the case. If possible, get the REAL sceptic and the believer to look into the site at different times. Allow BOTH their views to be expressed.
Match ALL this to the history.
Voila! You've taught people about the history of the place in question, you've shown them researchers at work AND you've managed to do it all in an informative and educational style!
THIS WOULD WORK!
People like us don't care if you trudge over familiar ground (such as any story or report that we have already heard of) PROVIDED you let us see some unique input! Don't treat us like teenagers who have turned off the Playstation II to be 'scared of the ghosts', treat us like ADULTS with BRAINS. Heck, even the teenagers usually glued to their video games I know would appreciate this!
(They understand something YOU DON'T... Truth is usually scarier and more interesting than fiction.)
I haven't met a SINGLE paranormal researcher in ANY of the studies (ghosts, UFOs, crypto, etc.) that DOESN'T want to see a little light shed on their studies to try an educate and bring a few more views to the table. Too long has the idea of the chain-rattling, sheet covered ghost been a product of mass media. Same goes for the anal-probing, grey alien and the horrible, attacking Sasquatch. To be honest, for the most part, you're portrayals of these phenomena SUCK LARGE and you've managed to p!ss most of us serious researchers right off.
You seem to be stuck in the "Jumping out of the closet and yelling BOO!" mode. Frankly, we're sick of it and us researchers who TRULY believe in the work we're doing are sick to death of being trotted out like cattle to AMUSE people rather than educate.
Not just me but now in speaking to (and hearing from) the best and brightest in UFOlogy and cryptozoology, WE ALL feel this way!
You CAN educate AND entertain. People want to KNOW not simply to 'experience'.
...and in answer to your next possible statements (which we at GHRS have heard and tossed at us...)
NO, we don't care WHO YOU ARE. NO, we don't need ALL the exposure you promise. NO, as we're non-profit, working with you really doesn't 'help' us. NO, we don't care if we 'never work on TV (or whatever) again'.
You see, call us elitist. Call us arrogant BUT we see ourselves as researchers FIRST and educators SECOND and no where in our lives does "Media Whore" factor in with the GHRS. We are here to try and tell people about the history, legends, myths and first hand accounts of the paranormal FIRST and FOREMOST! Scientific styled research is next and we do not feel the need to 'act up' to impress.
We're pretty damned impressive WITHOUT screaming into a camera or running about or dancing to the Ghostbusters' theme while proclaiming proudly that we feel we're surrounded by ghosts and see 'dead people'.
We all acknowledge the need for media attention to the paranormal. We all would LIKE to see it presented wisely and we all would like to get to those folks who may not be aware that indeed SERIOUS people ARE working on theories and study and we ARE trying to take a 'fringe' element of study and treat it with a bit of respect, dignity and knowledge. We know it CAN be done and it SHOULD be done and if we (as researchers) could be promised the same respect in turn, we would ALL help out and appreciate you.
But, keep up the schlock and you'll only get a very few people willing to speak to you and miss some of the better and more honest work and information available as the "real" researchers will stay away in droves and this is the information that MOST people would (and when they dig, DO) find most interesting.
(This, in my eyes, is already happening which is terribly sad because of the amount of EXCELLENT work that never sees the light of day.)
So, in closing, WISE UP media people and help out our area of research. We are all just a little tired of faux theatrics and unknown experts ramming dung down our throats.
Sincerely, someone who HOPES one day to be your friend if some of you would just SMARTEN UP...
Matthew James Didier
P.S - I'd like to mention that certain newspapers and print media, Media Television and CFTR's Scott Simpson (as examples... there are more) have done GREAT work with us and we're proud of what they did and how they did it so again, please note, this is NOT indicative of all media outlets! Just SOME of them.