Come back ‘Weekly World News’, all is forgiven

I know that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes words can be used to paint pictures. In return, therefore, sometimes word-based pictures can end up saying a thousand words.

And here’s one of them:


I mean seriously. Australia?

It kind of reminds me of this:


Except, that second one was the Weekly World News, from back in 1995. For all you kids out there, the Weekly World News wasn’t really a newspaper (and, today, isn’t really a news website). Rather, it was/is a very funny absurd fictional tabloid that satirically skewered sensationalist news reporting and the world of the paranormal alike. It was The Onion for the especially naive. It was almost entirely unbelievable, and yet written in a way that made the implausible very nearly sound plausible. And that was the point.

We knew it was fiction — I mean, headlines like “Fat Cat Owns 23 Old Ladies” and “Second Pope Under Pope Hat” kind of gave the game away. But it was written in exactly that tabloid style typically used to whip up hysteria among the easily whipped up. It was pre-Internet clickbait. The idea that some schmo might actually fall for this stuff was deliberately titillating. It was as thought-provoking as it was amusing.

Today’s Loch Ness story, however, is from the Daily Mail‘s mainstream Science & Tech section. It ain’t satire. It sits alongside news stories about those 800,000-year-old footprints found near Norfolk, a new theory on why your fingers wrinkle in the bath, and a piece on how palaeozoologists are trying to established how dinosaurs moved by attaching tails to chickens. (Yep, I know that last one sounds dubious, but it’s actually straight-up serious science.)

This actual news story in an entirely non-satirical outlet contextualises Dead Nessie by falling back on hearsay, with the technically accurate intro “Reports are coming in…” Because they are. No doubt genuinely, some people are actually reporting this. And, so off we go, let’s stick this clickbait in the Science section.

Just as I am doing here, I now realise…


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