This week, I want to bring things back down to earth and talk about something serious: Bigfoot.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to write about a local woman, Lori Wade, who had been accepted to participate in a Sasquatch research expedition in northern Kentucky. Originally, I was going to focus exclusively on her trip and how it affected her lifelong belief in Bigfoot, but after my deadline was pushed back, I wanted to expand the scope to include anyone in Chattanooga who claimed encounters with the creatures.
This being the Internet age, I posted a request for comments on the newspaper's Facebook page. Given people's feelings about Bigfoot, I expected plenty of responses, many of which would be snide or sarcastic.
I wasn't disappointed.
Most of the 90 comments to my post were suggestions that I visit Walmart if I wanted to see Sasquatch in person or that Bigfoot sightings were actually of their mother-in-law out for a jaunt through the woods. (My knee is still bruised from how many times I slapped it reading through those.)
The "har har" tone wasn't terribly surprising. Real or not, the existence of Bigfoot is a hot topic for debate, with outspoken critics and outspoken supporters. For every person with a legitimate story to tell, I expected dozens more to dismiss the idea out of hand.
What I didn't expect was how many people suggested the story was a waste of time -- theirs, mine and the newspaper's.
"I would be ASHAME [sic], to even post this on here or in the Paper ... Get REAL people. It does Not exsist [sic]," wrote one respondent.
Of course, the irony is that by posting a response, even one this derisive and poorly composed, this individual was contributing to what was already a vigorous conversation. As a journalist, that volume of response does nothing to discourage me from pursuing a topic.
Is Bigfoot front-page worthy? Unless we catch one, I'd say probably not. Will any story, however well-written, change minds on either side of the debate? Again, that's doubtful, and it's not the newspaper's job to take a stance, anyway.
Personally, I don't care whether Bigfoot is real. What I care about is that people don't settle for "Let's forget it and move on." Curiosity is fundamental to being human, and I think it will be a sad day indeed when people settle for antipathy and stop looking into the universe's mysteries, even if their goal is to debunk them.
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...