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by Joe Murgia – @ufojoe11 on Twitter
On May 11th of 2020, New York Times (NYT) reporter Ralph Blumenthal called into a Facebook Live event with “The Paranormal Lawyer,” Michael Hall, to discuss the infamous Wilson/Davis (WD) documents. With an audience of about twenty people watching and listening in, Blumenthal went on a fact-finding mission about the controversial notes that surfaced on Reddit last April. In short, the WD docs detail a 2002 meeting between an astrophyscist, Eric Davis PhD, and then recently retired director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Admiral Thomas Wilson. For an extended loook at that story, click here. After this Facebook event was over, I heard from various sources who confirmed to me the NYT was working on an article (or articles) about retrievals of crashed UFOs and that the WD docs might be a part of that.
We’re now almost two months since the Blumenthal/Hall call and the article is nowhere to be found. What’s going on? Is the Deep State trying to quash it? Not exactly. I reached out to investigative reporter, George Knapp, to get his take on the situation and his experience with trying to get controversial stories approved for air at KLAS here in Las Vegas.
George Knapp: “There is no question whatsoever about whether the New York Times is working on a story related to crashes, crash retrievals, and what might have been done with recovered materials. Too many people have been contacted for this to remain a secret. But what might the story include?
“I would be shocked if the N.Y. Times comes out with report that vouches for the existence of crashed UFOs or reverse engineering efforts hidden away in the bowels of defense contractors. What it might do is explore the persistence of these tales, maybe interview credible people who’ve been involved with UFO-related research, and get them to go on the record about whether there is any truth to the longstanding suspicions. A story like that would still have a huge impact, in my opinion. It might set off a stampede by other journalists to track down the rumors, and certainly efforts by rival journalists to debunk the same stories. All of that is good, in a sense, because it advances the discussion.
“There’s a book by the late Terry Hansen called ‘The Missing Times’ which documents how the N.Y. Times has treated the UFO subject over the last 50 years. The paper has printed a story or two, here and there, but in general it has been hostile to the subject, dismissive of UFO cases and evidence. So despite the success of the Dec. 2017 report, I would think the journalists working on this are facing a very heavy lift with a story like this.
“The Times is constantly under attack, along with other mainstream news media. Every day it is accused of issuing fake news, based on anonymous sources. A story like this is risky for the paper because it practically begs for attacks on its credibility, and there’s no doubt that will happen no matter what is in the story itself. They have to be very careful and deliberate, and I’m guessing that is the process underway now.
“I’ve never worked for the Times, obviously, but have been down this road. When we first broached the Bob Lazar/Area 51/recovered saucers story for KLAS, it was a tough sell. My news director Bob Stoldal trusted me and gave me 8 months to work on the series we produced. But he was very tough in reviewing the script, especially when it came to the Lazar story. When we heard back form the two universities where Lazar said he was a student, and both denied having records, we thought the story might be dead. The reason we continued to pursue it was the strange responses we received from Los Alamos Lab. They lied to us, repeatedly, about Lazar’s work history there. That really was the clincher for us in whether we would pursue it further. We suspected we were being purposely misled, and it turned out that we were able to confirm our suspicions. But it was a long, tough slog, and every sentence had to be dissected and reviewed.”
So why does it feel like we’re stuck in quicksand and no progress is being made with the New York Times’ article on crashed and retrieved UFOs? I’ve heard the story has made it through the first pass with the editors but what does that mean? And what does the journey of coming up with an idea for a story and taking it all the way through to publication, look like? I reached out to a Managing Editor at a newspaper in the United States and asked them to explain the entire process. They wanted to remain anonymous for now.
Joe Murgia (JM): “How do you guys get your stories and how would you handle a story about alleged crashes of UFOs and the New York Times about to publish a story on it?”
Managing Editor (ME): “I don’t want to speak for all media, I’m just speaking in very general terms. We get tips all the time, all day – we have ways for people to access us – and they vary in degree of detail, veracity, plausibility, all of these things. But we never want to just dismiss something out of hand. If we have a real person to contact, you know, a lot of this stuff comes in anonymously, that’s a whole nother situation because then you can’t really access the source and that makes it more difficult. But if we see that there’s something that needs to be followed up on, especially if it’s breaking or highly competitive, we have a team of investigative reporters, that’s their whole job. Mostly they work on longer-term projects. But we vet these things as much as we can.
“Right now, at this point in history, we’re in a pandemic. Our features reporters, our sports reporters, everybody has been sort of recommissioned to focus on breaking news and looking at what’s happening at the businesses and reopenings and investigations going into that. So, would we be able to drop everything and try to find something out about a story that the New York Times is doing on UFOs? Doubtful. And they’ve had people, like you say, who’ve been reporting on this for years.
“But I will say, we take everything seriously, we don’t dismiss stories about UFOs. When Art Bell died, I think that’s still, to this day, one of the highest read stories on our website. And clearly, he was out there in Pahrump and he had this huge following and a lot of people are interested in this. And we really do read all of those emails (laughs). I know people sometimes wonder, do people see this, do they follow through, should I even bother? The answer is yes, yes and yes. Can we always pivot and produce a news article? We’re not a blog, we can’t just say, ‘Oh, we heard this, someone sent this in.’
JM: “That’s what I can do. That’s my advantage. I can do that and I know that, too.”
ME: “Correct and that’s a huge, huge difference. We need to…we research records, we request public records, we talk to multiple sources because the expectation that people have of our media outlet is very different. We get dinged sometimes, why don’t we do something more quickly or why don’t we just report what we heard? You know, even the police scanner. You’ll hear things on the police scanner when things are being called in, that’s not always what happens. And other TV stations or bloggers who monitor those things, they’ll just go right out with it. And they’re right, they may have just heard that, but that’s not actually the case until we can vet it ourself. That takes a little more time, unfortunately.
“It would be the same for a story about UFOs, a story about working conditions in any kind of business or a concern the parent has about a situation at a school. All of those, we go through the process.”
JM: “So if [the article] has made it past the editors as a first pass, what does that mean and then what would be the next step.? Would they ask for more from the reporters to get more sources? How does that work?”
ME: “So usually how it would work…I haven’t worked at the New York Times [but] I do have some friends that do. The way it generally works is, the reporter and editor, they have an assigning editor and they would speak to that assigning editor and say, ‘Look, I have this idea, or ‘I have this source’ or ‘I have this tip and I want to work on it.’ So, they would do what’s called gathering string or thread. They go out and they get some preliminary information and they come back and they say, ‘Okay, I do think there is a story here. and so this is how I see it shaping up. This should be the lead, this is the information, these are the sources.’ And then they would say, ‘Okay, you should proceed with that story and prioritize it right now.’ Or, ‘Okay, that’s a little iffy. Why don’t you do A, B and C and then come back to me?’
“So, if something is being at first pass, it generally means something has been approved and it has been written. Then the first editor, the writer works most closely with, will do an edit. This is mostly for story structure, to vet the sources, to see if it lives up to what the expectation was. Is this the same story that we thought we had at the time? And this is before it even goes to the copy desk, the copy editors line edit it and then, if it’s controversial, sometimes we have stories even that go through legal review, we have a general counsel. So if something is particularly touchy, it might need to go to legal review. There’s just many different levels, depending on the kind of story it is.
“And then it generally goes to the section editor, I don’t know if it would be in the science section or the nation report. So it would go up to that level. And the editors, who are all having meetings constantly about the stories that are coming, or they’re expecting – unless it’s an extremely stealth story – most of the editing pool will know about it. And then other higher editors will get a look at it. They may have questions, they may say, ‘Hey, what about this? Have we reached out to this entity or that entity?’ And with investigative pieces like this, that can take time because in the print process, once it’s out there, it’s out there.
“And the New York Times, especially, is just regarded as an incredibly important resource and so they, I’m sure, vet these things very carefully. All their stories, but particularly something like this. And so first pass to me and at The ***** ****** what that would mean is, that first step has been taken. That the draft of the story, it exists, it’s in the system, people are reading it.”
JM: “What about second pass? How many passes are there?”
ME: “Oh gosh! At the New York Times, there might be…there could be a lot. Like I said, it just depends on the kind of story. It might need to go to legal and it will get reviewed by two or three people there. There’s no secret number like, ten. How many copy editors will see it? Because one copy editor’s editing for one thing, another copy editor is there to write the headline and to do coding. Although, sometimes people think everything just rushes into print, and it is true, mistakes happen. There’s a lot of conspiracies like, ‘Is an organization doing this on purpose?’ There’s so many people that touch a story in any given day. It’s really not the case at any paper that I have ever worked at that a story can just fly into print or online without at least five to ten people, looking at it, knowing about it, vetting it in some way, shape or form.
“And the New York Times has a fact-checking department, that could go, another…so in terms of layers of editing, time with each layer, it’s all so variable and I know that’s very frustrating because it would be great if it was…it’s more of an art than a science. In science you say we do things in this order and this way, da, da, da. The news is different, everything has to be weighed on its own merits and handled accordingly. So that’s what we do all day, every day, exercising our news judgment, prioritizing, fact checking and doing what we can. And I imagine, at the New York Times, I think they have 1500 writers so, that’s a lot of people (laugh).”
JM: “One of the issues is if they cover the aspect of the story related to Special Access Programs and Unacknowledged Special Access Programs. They’re the most secretive programs. And if they cover that angle and write about whether or not one or more of these programs are illegal, it could be hung up in the legal department of the New York Times.”
ME: Who’s running these?
JM: “Government, but we think this is in a private, aerospace corporation with no oversight and it’s buried and very hard to trace unless you know where to look.”
ME: “Hmm. Well, it’s intriguing and if they have the time and resources to put to a story like that, if it’s gettable, they will get it. They have done an incredible job with their international bureaus. It’s an incredible outlet and the people there are very talented and well sourced. They’ve got sources in every branch of government and they’ve got sources everywhere. If anyone can do it, they can do it.”
JM: “Last question. If this article comes out, you read it and find the information credible about us having several flying discs from somewhere else and maybe biological tissues from bodies, how do you think you would react just as a human being?”
ME: “Uh, you know, I’d want to read more, that is for sure. That would be pretty…pretty interesting information. If I was reading in the New York Times, if they were sources quoted, if that would be something we would follow up on,, we would do what we could. But, that’s a heck of a story, so… (laughs). I know there’s a whole cadre of people out there who are on top of this but it’s not something I have the time or ability or resources to track. But if it comes out, you’ve got my cell number. If it happens, Joe, give me a call and The *** ****** will do our best.”
The wait continues.
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