Skepticism

Another pet psychic, another crappy journalist.

I swear this will be my last rant about pet psychics. For today.

When I saw the headline, “City puts the bite on pet psychic,” I was way too optimistic. I actually got a little giddy, thinking that this little New England paper accomplished what the San Francisco Gate could not: an actual news report about a scam artist getting busted. I was ready to overlook the fact that “puts the bite on” is not a commonly used phrase that would make sense — after all, the journalist doesn’t usually come up with the stupid, godawful punny headlines. I was intrigued to find out what the psychic had done to get “the bite” from the city and eagerly clicked the link.

Willow, a pet psychic, recently lost her paw-reading position at Penelope’s Pet Boutique on Washington Street.

It starts off well, doesn’t it? The first sentence, taken in context with the headline, tells us that a supposed pet psychic has been ordered by the City to stop giving readings. This immediately made me happy, and I wanted to know more. Like, what caused this? Are no psychics allowed to operate in the City? Was she not paying taxes? Did a customer complain?

And then we arrive at the second sentence. I’ll print it here along with the first sentence, so you can get an idea of the jarring juxtaposition.

Willow, a pet psychic, recently lost her paw-reading position at Penelope’s Pet Boutique on Washington Street. The Tennessee native, who read Tarot cards for the shop Fools’ Mansion for nearly a decade, says she is also skilled at tapping into animals’ thoughts and feelings.

Now normally when writing a news article, the second sentence provides information that logically follows the first sentence. It doesn’t usually serve as an ADVERTISEMENT for the SERVICES of the INDIVIDUAL BREAKING THE LAW in the first sentence. Buried within the article is the information that she was operating without a license, which may make one wonder about the criteria for obtaining a pet psychic license. This and other relevant questions will have to wait, though, because the bulk of this column is spent describing the bogus psychic’s “colorful personality,” her satisfied customers, and her other business schemes that have yet to be shut down by the City.

I like this new approach to writing news stories about lawbreakers, and I’d like to see it applied across the board at the Norwich Bulletin. For example, remember the former CEO of Tyco, L. Dennis Kozlowski? His article might be something like this:

L. Dennis Kozlowski was arrested yesterday for embezzling $600 million from his company, Tyco. Kozlowski, whose company sells adorable toys like Tickle-Me-Elmo, is also an accomplished bowler, playing in a league where his team is currently ranked third.

I can think of plenty more examples that would show how much better newspapers would be if criminals were treated in this fashion. If you’d like, go on and try your hand at being a “journalist” in the comments! It’s fun! Norwich Bulletin, are you hiring?

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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45 Comments

  1. It isn’t quite clear what kind of license is needed. Maybe she just needs a special addition to her standard business license in order to work with pets. Certainly there are health department concerns if you’re going to have animals on the premises.

  2. Yes, I wondered about the details of the license, too. The reason why I suspect it has something to do with the psychic nature of it is because in a paragraph near the bottom you’ll find the only other sentence referring to the subject at hand, which states that she was at City Hall to get a tarot-reading license. Apparently that’s what prompted the shut-down.

    Truly this is journalism at its shittiest.

  3. Just to get the Godwin out of the way early on:

    Adolf Hitler, architect and instigator of WWII who is also responsible for the deaths of over 6 million Jews in concentration camps, was found dead in his buker today, an apparent suicide. Mr. Hitler enjoyed painting landscapes, long walks on the beach, listening to Wagner, and fucking Eva Braun.

  4. George W. Bush was arrested today and was charged with subverting the constitution, derelictions of duty, war crimes, murder and general asshatery. Mr. Bush is a coloful character. Raised in an elite New England family of bankers and great inherited wealth. Mr. Bush was educated in the best librel prep schools and colleges in the east. After graduation Mr. Bush felt the need to fulfill a long held childhood ambition to be a cowboy. Mr. Bush moved to Texas and spent several decades pretending to be a Texas cowboy. Recently diagnoised as a compulsive liar it is likely that he will use an insanity defense.

  5. Rebecca, you should consider starting a regular feature in which you do a skeptical analysis of an article. This isn’t the first time you’ve written a wonderful critique of journalism.

  6. I agree with Stacey’s suggestion. Journalists need to be thoroughly called out on their crappy reporting. And if such a wonderful thing should occur, you could also use the feature to praise an article that shows some integrity.

  7. I looked at Norwich’s site and found the city clerk page:

    http://www.norwichct.org/content/43/280/81/default.aspx

    It mentions licenses for dogs, marriages and civil unions but nothing for pet psychics. Maybe they just cross out the word “marriage” and write “pet psychic”.

    There’s also a section at the bottom of the page titled “Useful Internet Resources”, under which it says “None at this time”. Not sure if this is a placeholder for further expansion or a critique on the current state of the internet.

  8. “Local socialite Alphonse G. Capone was arrested yesterday on several counts of tax evasion. A native from New York city, Mr. Capone had to fight all the way from his impoverished childhood home in Brooklyn to becoming a prominent member of the Chicagoan society. He enjoys the friendship of important judges and politicians, who speak fondly of him. ‘Al is a hoot,’ said Justice Jones. ‘He is always the life and soul of the party.'”

  9. Amateur Gourmand Jeffrey Dahmer was detained by local athorities as a person of interest. Mr. Dahmer is a well loved citizen with many young male friends. Neighbors reported a unique cooking smell from Mr. Dahmer’s residence. While no one would actually call the smell mouthwatering no one said that it wasn’t. Several large barrels and an old freezer were removed from Mr. Dahmer’s basement. Apparently the police wanted to help Mr. Dahmer tidy up.

  10. These are cracking me up, nearly making up for the absurdity of the original appearing in an actual newspaper.

    Stacey & Kat, thanks! I do try to knock them down as I see them, but perhaps I should give the media-busting posts a name and make it an official Skepchick Feature . . .

  11. Itinerant writer and erstwhile street mime, Sam Ogden, was arrested earlier this week for sexually assaulting each of the female contributors to the blog, Skepchick. Mr. Ogden is widely admired as a humanitarian, having invented the concepts of compassion and giving. He can make you smart, funny, and attractive just by looking in your direction. His hair is perfect, his dimples once brought a puppy back to life, and his body emits the sweet fragrance of French toast. Also, he has an enormous penis.

  12. Local artist and child’s birthday party clown John Wayne Gacy was arrested today. Mr. Gacy’s arrest was in relation to possible charges of necrophilia, murder and child molestation. As noted earlier Mr. Gacy is a noted local artist. Mr. Gacy’s paintings of sad faced clowns have been selling well in recent months. Also in an attempt to make ends meet the hard working Mr. Gacy has been performing at children’s birthday parties as a clown and has also been doing some babysitting. Mr. Gacy has been able to keep the tots occupied with his large collection of shrunken heads and a vigorus exercise program.

  13. I agree with Stacey, keep em coming.

    We had something like this as an assignment for school once and I had a little skeptic-gasm for it at the time. We had to pick a newspaper/magazine article about a science study, go find the study, and see what was actually accurate about the popular report. Then we presented it to the class. It was great/hilarious/maddening.

  14. Lorainne Bobbitt was arrested today on three felony charges of first degree sexual assault, assault with a deadly weapon and malicious wounding. At 11:14 pm, police got the call that Mrs. Bobbitt had cut off her husband’s penis with a carving knife. Lorainne Bobbitt is currently employed as a hair stylist and enjoys watching TV with her mother.

  15. Y’know, google shows only two sites containing the phrase “pet psychic license” and one of them is this one. (The other one mentions it in conjunction with the phrase “CrackerJack box”.)

  16. Freelance writer Mike Stimpson said Monday that Nazi leader Adolph Hitler “wasn’t so bad after all.” Stimpson lives in an apartment with his cat and enjoys the novels of John Irving.

  17. My wife has a horse and has had a number of her horsy friends recommend “horse chiropractic” sessions for her big dumb compost creating creature. How the hell does one get a horse to lay down and let you adjust its back or neck??? Hoof reading anyone, or equine phrenology??? Gotta figure if an animal psychic doesn’t tell a horse owner that what their gelding really wants more than anything else is to have his balls back, then their just full-o-crap.

  18. Dateline Jvdea:
    Jesvs Christ, local activist, was arrested today on several vnrelated charges. Jesvs (pronovnced hay’zevs), an vnemployed, vnskilled constrvction worker, and native of Jvdea, has made a repvtation lately preaching a gospel of peace and brotherly love.

  19. “Italian-American entrepreneur Charles Ponzi plead guilty to fraud yesterday and was sentenced to five years in a federal prison. Ponzi is the owner of an investment company that has allowed thousands of people multiply their savings and realize their most cherished dreams.”

  20. “In other news, blogger and cartoonist wannabe Andrés Diplotti was accused of blackmailing the staff of Skepchick into awarding him ‘Comment of the Week’ for eight weeks in a row. Andrés is a celebrated commenter, consistently earning the ‘Comment of the Week’ award.”

  21. Um, Rebecca? In the article you use the term:

    bogus psychic

    I’ve notified and informed the Ministry of Redundancy Department, Division of Blogging and Internet Journalism Branch about this seriously erroneous mistake.

    I hope they revoke your Connecticut state blogging license, and then take it away.

  22. “Charles Milles Manson was convicted yesterday along with three others on one count of conspiracy and seven of murder, including the brutal killings of Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca on August 10, 1969. Eccentric artist, philosopher, and guru Manson has been described by those who knew him best as “a loving Family man” and has a deep interest in social causes, hoping one day to change the world. An associate of Beach Boys member Dennis Wilson, Manson has aspirations as a singer-songwriter. His forthcoming album, as yet unnamed and still in the planning stages, is inspired by Manson’s abiding love for the music of the Beatles, which Manson says “really speaks to him on a spiritual and practical level.” Those wishing to seek guidance from Mr. Manson or to discuss prospects in the music industry may contact him at San Quentin prison during normal visiting hours. The death penalty is expected.”

  23. I had no idea that journalism was this easy.

    After assassinating President Abraham Lincoln yesterday evening, John Wilkes Booth injured his leg upon jumping from the Presidential box in Ford’s Theatre. Booth’s fans look forward to his recovery and return to stage acting, where he is loved for his energetic and powerful performances.

    Anyone going to tackle man-made and natural disasters? The sinking of the Titanic! The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire! The burning of the Library of Alexandria! The Black Plague! The Lake Nyos Gas Disaster! It’s all bright and shiney with just the right turn of phrase.

  24. A little girl was sent to burn in Hell for eternity today by God after she was struck and killed by a delivery truck near her home. A spokesangel for the king of kings said that the girl had just stolen money from her mothers purse to buy candy at the corner store when the accident occurred. Our all-loving Lord is the creator of the universe and everything in it. In his spare time he enjoys starting fires with lightning.

  25. I’m in Sheltie Rescue and we have one of these folks show up (invited) to our Annual Picnic every year. I’ve tried to get through to others that this is a con, but some people just refuse to listen. I guess that they’d rather think that they are listening to their dog (or even better, their Dear, Departed Dog!) than to a rational voice.

    Journalism has gotten to be really sloppy in the US, as editors are catering more to what brings in the $$$, rather than to good coverage and writing. More often than not these days, the media are willing accomplices to these folks. Walter Cronkite and Edward Murrow must be spinning in their graves in respose to what has happened to their once-respectable field.

  26. QuestionAuthority – please tell me you are in the Midwest… our family is considering a sheltie (and we’re big believers in shelter/rescue dogs)

    not to bump this thread off-topic or anything…

  27. We used to be in MO. Had to leave for employment. We’re with Northern VA Sheltie Rescue now. I suggest the ASSA (American Shetland Sheepdog Association) web site for rescue links in your area. You can also Google “Sheltie Rescue.”

  28. My daughter, who posts as MetalOperaChick, was once hired *as an actress* to “play” a Gypsy doggie fortune teller for a dog-related event. She threw on a makeshift costume, went, and had a great time ad libbing doggie fortunes. It was fun, except that some people took her seriously. After the event was over, one lady softly questioned whether my daughter was *really* a pet psychic. My daughter replied, “No, I’m just an actress.” I told her that she should have said, “YES! I’m just an actress!” But the lady seemed disappointed in my daughter’s ethics, “pretending” to be a pet psychic without a disclaimer! We’ve been laughing about that ever since…

  29. Hi facts,
    What really galls me is that some people will pay a “pet psychic” to find their lost dog. That only diverts time, people and supplies from the search. I just want to shake those people and tell them to work from where the dog got lost or was seen last. As usual, the poor animals suffer for human stupidity and gullibility.

  30. After ordering Hypatia, the Chief Librarian of Alexandria, flayed alive by his congregation, and then organizing the mob of parishoners who later torched the Great Library, the Archbishop Cyril stubbed his toe on a piece of cobblestone. The Archbishop was a sincere humanitarian with connections to faith-based charities in the city, and many top civil officials as well. We wish him well on his recovery.

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