Discovering life…or not

The task of reporting the news is one that can seem somewhat daunting at first.  Not only must the intrepid journalist possess a certain degree of moxie as she pushes and prods her way into the bitter truth about the world as we know it, but she (and her editors) must also understand how to compile details and organize them in a clear and concise manner.

But sometimes, a publication makes such a major mistake—one that is so completely and utterly ridiculous—that we must ask: “what were they thinking?”  Such is the case for the April 28th issue of the British tabloid “The Sun.”   You don’t need a degree in journalism to figure out the problem with this one.   An article published on the magazine’s website last Wednesday bore the headline “Nasa: [sic] Evidence of life on Mars.”  

Unfortunately for the writers and editors at “The Sun,” (and Brown students in PHYS0220) NASA didn’t really claim anything of the sort.  As detailed by a Christian Science Monitor article from yesterday, agency officials publicly refuted the headline’s bold assertion, saying that the inorganic sulfate material collected by the Mars Spirit rover was not “pond scum,” as the article claimed, and certainly not a reason to believe that Mars possesses “the building blocks for life as we know it.”

Oops.  Maybe false claims of life on other planets just don’t go over so well when you try to pass them off as news? To the staff at “The Sun”: don’t worry too much about this slip-up; who ever said that it’s bad to do your reporting based on pure speculation?

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