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.