"What This Headline Should Have Read" Inaugural Post

I’m going to start a new regular topic called “What This Headline Should Have Read” for when I see particularly ridiculous news items. The rules are that either the headline is way off from the actual story, or the story is in in some way shamefully ridiculous with the headline being laughably erroneous or euphemistic.

Today’s offending item is a news item from imdb.com that reads:

Hewitt’s Ghostly Encounter

27 January 2009 11:10 AM, PST

Jennifer Love Hewitt is a firm believer in the afterlife – the actress is convinced her grandmother has spoken to her from beyond the grave. The 29-year-old stars in spooky TV show Ghost Whisperer, in which she plays a woman who can see and communicate with ghosts.

And it was a chance encounter with the show’s producer, James Van Praagh, who is also a psychic, that put Hewitt in touch with her late relative.

She tells Britain’s Ok! magazine, “We had an evening with James where he kind of did this thing, and my grandmother came through.

“She just wanted to say hello and tell me that she was looking out for me. It was really nice.”

In my job when people see things that aren’t there (i.e., hallucinate), talk to them, and make elaborate stories about these figments of imagination (i.e., delusions), we call a psychiatrist for a consult.

For any news to take this at all seriously without a shred of irony is laughable. Even though it’s just some lame internet news site, is that some sort of license to throw their brains out the window before writing these things? James van Praagh is a crook no better than Sylvia Browne (save that he’s not got quite the empire she has) with no abilities that are demonstrably real or able to withstand any scrutiny. He warps people’s brains by manipulating the memories people have of their loved ones and the emotions they have surrounding their deaths. John Edward may be the president of Douche Island, but he’s got to be President Douche of someone – enter: James van Praagh.

But anyway, to the headline itself: How is a report from a 2-bit psychic at all the same as a “ghostly encounter”? Both are imaginary, yes, but a “ghostly encounter” typically involves the person believing they actually encountered someone. As opposed to some merciless fatso telling them what a dead person allegedly said.

This headline should have read: “James van Praagh has Schizophrenia” or “…is Heartless Crook”.

Remember that time journalism had standards? Me neither. But just to stick it to the people who deserve it, I will be commenting on those I come across more often, rather than just snarking about it to myself.

[Edited for formatting – was trying to decide the best way to do this…I’ll leave it this way and see if it works out.]

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