darts and laurels

Darts and Laurels

So much hot air
March 28, 2012

In January, as earthlings awaited the largest solar radiation storm in seven years, news headlines had a Cowboys-and-Aliens feel: “Huge solar storm to shower Earth with radioactive particles” (CNN); “Solar flare blasts radiation storm toward Earth” (CNET); “Solar Flare Sends Particles Hurtling Towards Earth at 630 Miles per Second—and it Will Hit our Atmosphere on Saturday” (The Daily Mail).

Coverage of the actual event, meanwhile, was quite measured. CNN described nothing more alarming than how the storm might “spark an unusually large display of auroras.”

The LA Times, though, took top honors in our cognitive-dissonance sweepstakes. Its headline read: “Solar Storm May Cause Dropped Calls on Cell Phones.” The accompanying story, when it finally mentioned cell phones in the eighth paragraph, says: “‘Cellphones will generally not be affected,’ according to Douglas Biesecker, a physicist with NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.” Oh.

The Editors are the staffers of the Columbia Journalism Review.