I attended Daniel Webster Junior High School (now Middle School) for 7thâ€“9th grades. The school had a student newspaper. While I was working on that paper I learned a lot about journalism, from the “6 Ws” that need to be covered (Who, What, When, Where, Why, hoW) and the technique of writing (cover the most important concepts first and give details later), to how to paste the final copy on boards (now obsolete thanks to computers). I furthered my training in journalism while working for the UCLA “Daily Bruin” newspaper as a reviewer and columnist. Although I didn’t take any college courses in journalism, I learned it from working with experienced and ethical journalists, editors and publishers.
Later, I used this experience as the Editor-in Chief of Llewellyn’s “New Times” and later Â atÂ FATE magazine. FATE deals with true stories of the strange and unusual, and we often did not include fascinating articles that could not be documented. It’s what is called journalistic ethics and integrity.
Unfortunately, the worldâ€”including the world that passes for what is called “journalism”â€”is changing. This has been going on for some time, and perhaps nowhere can this be seen better than in the relationship between the journalistic media and the world of magick.
Several years ago, a tomb in Michigan was desecrated. It turned out to be a tasteless act by a couple of male teens. In my opinion the response to such terrible acts should have been community service for the boys, repayment for all damage to the tomb from the boys’ families, and both individual and family counseling for the boys and their parents.
The police found some occult books in the rooms of the boys. One was the classic Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. A TV news reporter held the book up to the camera and claimed that a on a certain page there was a ritual for dedicating a knife to Satan.
This was an outright lie. Not a mistake. Not an error. It was a lie. The page mentioned did have a ritual for dedicating an athame to The Goddess. But there was absolutely nothing about Satan there. The reporter lied. The editor who allowed it to go on did not verify the facts of the claim. The producer allowed the lie to go on the air. I repeatedly sent in protests to the station, and it took three weeks before they apologized for the error. But by then the lie was out there and the people watching three weeks after the lie was broadcast, in most instances, wouldn’t even remember the story.
Journalismâ€”A Lost Art?
That was my introduction to the increasing lack of journalistic practices and ethics by supposed outlets of journalism. Since that time I’ve observed a decrease in the quality of what passes for journalism. I’ve had to read newspaper articles to the end to find details that should have appeared within the first three paragraphs. Sometimes the full 6 Ws aren’t even included. I’ve seen headlines that are totally misleading. I’ve seen rumor and innuendo presented as fact. On television this has become even worse where being “fair and balanced” is considered more important than truth and fact. The head of News Corp. (a massive purveyor of “news” in Australia, the UK, the U.S., and Asia), Rupert Murdoch, wrote, “media companies need to give people the news they want” and not what is important for them to know.
I predict we will see more false claims about Wiccans, magicians, occultists and others who follow non-mainstream spiritual paths. They will be presented as “facts” by individuals and groups on websites that are opposed to anything non-tradition and want to follow Mr. Murdoch’s advice of giving people the “news” they want, including outright lies that support their mindset. They will supply what comedian Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness,” a so-called truth that seems to beÂ intuitivelyÂ true without regard toÂ evidence,Â logic,Â intellectual examination, orÂ facts.
A Media Fact Clearinghouse
What is needed is a type of clearinghouse that can stand up to false information about occultists, occult practices, Paganism, and magick. In the past, I’ve said that the only time the media calls on occultists is around Halloween or if there is a crime with “occult overtones.” With the proliferation of media and internet “news” outlets trying to outdo all the others, this is changing.
There are people who will endlessly repeat lies and old claims. I would leave refutations of such things to others. However, if you see a report on something new that involves the media and the occult, I will be glad to post information about that here. Please contact me at DonK@llewellyn.com .
Have you seen something obviously false about magick and occultism in the media? What, if anything, did you do about it?