[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Re: FW: Taking control of the documentary situation, an immodest proposal

There will always be someone willing to be a talking head. But if you are a well known researcher, your talking head gives credence to the program whether it is what you said or not. If, as some have written, there is a prospectus to the project, ask to see it. There must be some description of what the project is about. If you are told there is none, maybe you ears should prick up. Are they lying, hiding something. or is this really a seat of the pants program?

The scientists have the credibility and information. That is the leverage to use. The core question is, if you can not assure that what you are going to say and be involved in is reasonably accurate, then why do it? Is being involved in that program a benefiting the science? One doesn't see the world's top Mayan researchers on any of the plague of 2012 documentaries. Why should paleontology be different?

The idea of a blog site or some such critically reviewing paleo documentaries is intriguing. These would need to be honest and the good highlighted with the bad, not just a gripe fest. Like a movie review, include info on production company, graphic companies, etc. involved in the project. Such a site could be of broader interest and if advertised to the media, and might bring criticisms to a wider audience than just the paleo community. Maybe give the programs reviewed get an Iguanodon thumb spike up or thumb spike down.

All this might make little difference in the long run and crappy paleo programs will continue to be made, but the paleo community can do a better job letting general public viewers know which are good and which are crap and which have a little bit of both. Paleontologists just don't have to be the talking heads. Some group, like SVP, giving an imprimatur is probably meaningless because some, maybe most, producers don't care about accuracy. Paleontologists need to learn to "just say no."


dale mcinnes wrote:
I like Paul's proposal. But producers can easily sidestep this. Perhaps there 
is another
way? Something that would really be a lot of fun. Sticking a knife to every 
producer that
misrepresents the science of palaeontology. They do it for cars. They do it for 
movies. Get together the real academics for a scathing critique on every new 
dinodoc that goes awry. BE TERRIFYING. BE BRUTAL. You may have to piggyback a 
film critique show. Let
them know you 're available when a dinodoc surfaces. It adds to their show. RIP 
THE DOCUMENTARY APART ...... if you have to.
The real problem of course. We don't fully control our field. We don't have our own palaeodoc industry. We are not a franchise. We work for outsiders ..... Universities,
gov't ...........

Date: Wed, 16 Dec 2009 15:39:53 -0500
From: gsp1954@aol.com
To: vrtpaleo@usc.edu; dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: Taking control of the documentary situation, an immodest proposal

Back when I was a lad anything to do with dinosaurs on the telly was so
rare that one went for years craving for anything to show up. It was wonderful
when in 77 NOVA broadcast "The Hot Blooded Dinosaurs," the best
dinodocumentary ever. Its been pretty much downhill since.

I think almost everyone agrees that the situation has gotten out of hand,
in which the producers of dinosaur documentaries are egregiously exploiting
and abusing paleontologists on so many levels. I pretty much dread being
asked to in some way participate in documentaries because I'm tired of being
taken advantage of in assorted ways. I rarely watch them because I wish to keep
my TV in working order.

The problem is with both the broadcasters who pay for the programs and the
producers who supply them. The former in particular are interested only in
producing product that will make money in what is a very, very difficult
financial market. Because there are so many channels to watch the audience for
any given program is too small to generate much revenue, so the programs have
to be done on the cheal (one comment that the producers have lots of money
to kill is errant). Presenting accurate science is way down the list.
Remember that most of the channels produce programs promoting the reality of 
visitors, the predictions of Nostrodemus, ghostbusters etc.; their is no
Science Channel (the best channel in this regard is NatGeo, which continues to
largely adhere is a science based worldview). The hands on produces vary in
quality. Some may want to do a good job but are pressured to meet market
demands. Others should not be allowed to produce serious scientific

In principle it is possible to take control of the situation. How? By
getting organized. As it is the producers exploit us by dealing with us
individually, and making promises that they are going to do THIS program right, 
then doing what they damn well please until we get suckered the next time
around. Researchers would need to agree to not participate in a program unless
it has undergone a vetting process by a qualified group. If enough paleos do
so this would severely constrain the producers who need talking heads and
the legitimacy of at least claiming to have consulted experts. The publicity
of announcing such a system would itself make the news and in effect "shame"
the broadcasters and producers. Such a system would not need to be
permanent, run it for long enough to see if it works, and then drop the 
until the producers get out of line and revive it as necessary.

Whether such a system is practical is open to question. How would it be
run, would enough researchers adhere to the rules to make it effective, etc?
And it is a pain in the butt to have to do something in the first place. I
only bring it up because the situation is so bad (I wonder if scientists in
other fields have similar complaints, or are dinosaurs a special problem).

One possibility is to have a set of principles for documentaries written
up, and researchers can sign it. Producers would have to agree to the terms
before signers could participate. The more I think about this idea as at least
a minimal step the more I like it. For example it can include a clause that
programs will not state an idea is fact unless this is not controversial
(such as hadrosaurs were herbivores, while hadrosaurs protecting their young
from predators would be qualified as plausible but not proven). The sheer
press publicity should act as a wake up call to the producers that the
scientific community has had it and they need to shape up. Or maybe something 
organized is called for. Maybe try the first and if that does not work try a
more formal arrangement.

Windows Live: Make it easier for your friends to see what you’re up to on