Thursday, September 04, 2008

Charlottesville to watch for Martian invaders... again

This looks like fun -- and some "media convergence" to talk about in class.

PR students can see the fine job of "press agentry" by the University of Virginia Film Festival, bringing together the school's observatory, a major studio motion picture, and a series of underground films (described as "most hyperbolic alien invasion spectacles"), all to celebrate the most famous media hoax since the New York Sun's discovery of man-bats on the moon, from early days of network radio:
Virginia Film Festival
Special 70th Anniversary Broadcast of "War Of The Worlds"
"Just to be sure history doesn't repeat itself, we've asked the observatory to have telescopes at the ready to reassure our spectators that the skies are safe," the film festival director said, calling the Halloween show "a great way to honor one of the more bizarre evenings in Charlottesville history."
The UVa school paper's archives ("media history research") are cited as evidence that the 1938 "Martian invasion" panic over Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" broadcast brought people to the observatory, which used its big telescope to show Virginians that Mars was as arid and peaceful as ever.

If you want to get an early jump on Halloween, here's the 1938 radio broadcast that started it all (courtesy of the Internet Archive)...

Back in the spring, WNYC's Radio Lab did a terrific program on the panic over that 1938 broadcast -- and the fact that it wasn't the only incident like it. The full audio of the program is online, along with links to Orson Welles' 1938 script and more. I'll put that link in my official Media History class syllabus page later this semester, since we're not even up to the invention of printing yet...

As for the man-bats on the moon, I jumped ahead and mentioned in my Media History class that yesterday was the 105th anniversary of the founding of the original New York Sun -- I hope I didn't say "100th" the way I mistyped it here a minute ago!...

The Sun reportedly became the best-selling news sheet in this world by printing a hoax series about an entirely fictional telescopic exploration of the lunar surface. News writing students should note that story length and style have changed since then.

On Wednesday I didn't get around to mentioning that there's no connection to the current paper called the New York Sun, whose business troubles are, coincidentally, in the news today. Keep an eye out for circulation-building stories about man-bats or Martians in New Jersey!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's a story. It's an ad. It's a story with legs.

A Wall Street Journal story is being brought to local readers by The Roanoke Times -- as a paid advertisement by a group protesting the pricing and regional power of the Carilion Clinic hospital group.

Group reprints story about Carilion -
"A group opposed to Carilion Clinic's transformation into a multispecialty medical practice is reigniting its two-year campaign -- and it is using a story published this week to light the fuse.
"The Coalition for Responsible Healthcare is paying nearly $10,000 for advertisements showcasing its cause today and Sunday in The Roanoke Times, said Dr. Geoff Harter, president of the coalition and a Roanoke ear, nose and throat doctor."
The Times story links to Carilion's response to the Wall Street Journal story and the Coalition for Responsible Healthcare site, which offers a pdf file download of the Journal article/ad.

The original story, Nonprofit hospitals flex pricing power, also hit number five on the Journal's list of "most emailed stories by readers in the past week," which may keep that link available to non-subscribers.

A quick search with turns up follow-up stories on area TV news broadcasts and in publications from Richmond to Australia and the UK. One station's investigative reporter even went to several convenience stores to confirm suspicions that the paper was selling out.

If the original story does disappear behind a subscriber-only firewall, university students should remember their tuition pays for access through their library's Factiva database. Just search for the headline or the name of its author, John Carreyrou. That way they'll also find an earlier article by him on the same theme, headlined "Nonprofit Hospitals, Once For the Poor, Strike It Rich --- With Tax Breaks, They Outperform For-Profit Rivals."