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September 28, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:38am

Daily Star extraterrestrial affairs correspondent on covering ‘biggest beat in journalism’

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Daily Star has appointed what it describes as the world’s first dedicated extraterrestrial affairs correspondent to cover “the biggest beat in journalism” – space.

The appointment came as the Star launched an online content series entitled Spaced Out, with exclusive interviews with the likes of magician Uri Geller and Happy Mondays lead singer Shaun Ryder about their alien encounters.

The Star’s “Interstellar Parliamentary Lobby member” Michael Moran (pictured) told Press Gazette: “What I’m doing is a balancing act. It’s about not being so silly that people don’t take it seriously and not being so dry that people don’t want to read us.”

He wants to strive for an “interested, open-minded, but sensibly sceptical” tone in his work.

“I’m not writing this mad tabloidese saying it’s all real, and equally I’m not being all boring and going ‘no, this is all rubbish’, because the truth is no one knows and as long as we don’t know all you can do is keep an open mind,” he said.

Moran will have an astronomical remit including the billionaire space race, asteroid mining, whether alien abductions could be a psychological phenomenon or a physical phenomenon, what aliens might really look like according to biologists, and a ranking all the Star Trek aliens so far.

Even if recent US military-related claims of UFOs have a more logical explanation such as advanced technology from China or Russia or weather phenomenon we do not yet understand, Moran said “that’s really interesting and exciting and it’s being under-reported”.

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Moran’s personal view is that it seems “implausible, but not impossible” that aliens would have come to Earth but not tried to make contact. He instead wonders if unexplained phenomena could be time travellers from the future who have to be careful not to interfere.

“We don’t know. Something is happening. It’s best to keep an open mind until we’ve got more solid evidence,” he said. “So all we’re doing is, as best we can, reporting it as honestly as we can.

“We’re reporting it fairly straight but at the same time there’s an element of fun there because people want fun in their lives and I think that’s okay.

“I don’t think news has to be just literally giving the facts. An element of speculation, within reason, is fun. As journalists if we’re just reporting the dry facts then why are they going to come to us, why wouldn’t they go somewhere else?”

He said many extraterrestrial topics “might otherwise go unreported by mainstream news outlets” and that “while belief in aliens, UFO sightings and other paranormal events hasn’t been taken seriously by politicians or the media up to now, there’s growing evidence from credible sources that something is happening that we don’t yet quite understand”.

Suits ‘cheeky and irreverent’ Star

Over the past two years Star owner Reach has been undergoing branding work to help its titles identify how they can best connect with their readers and deepen those relationships, as it is seeking to do under its customer value strategy. This has already led to the Mirror’s More Hopeful brand manifesto.

[Read more: Mirror editor Alison Phillips on the market for good news]

Reach brand strategy director Andrew Tenzer told Press Gazette there had been investment in understanding where the Daily Star brand should go and what it stands for so it could “articulate a shared vision that everyone can get behind”.

It is now focusing on implementing this brand positioning while staying true to its brand values, he said. This means tapping “into things that fit our brand values that people are genuinely quite interested in engaging with and reading about”.

Tenzer said the Spaced Out series “fits the brand perfectly”. “We’ve always been a bit wacky and fun and irreverent and cheeky and I think it’s just one of those areas where you can have a lot of fun with it,” he said.

“But actually that mysterious unknown is still really interesting as well so we just feel that it’s something that helps us to live up to our brand values and then engage with people.”

He added the Star likes to be “the life and soul of the party and give people an element of escapism from the boring, mundane of everyday life”.

This often means a “cheeky and irreverent take on stories that matter to people”, said Tenzer, giving the example of the paper’s work during the pandemic comparing the government to clowns and printing a Dominic Cummings “do whatever the hell you want” mask that went viral.

[Read more: Daily Star editor says paper ‘satire’ but certainly not ‘woke’]

The Star has also benefitted from a drive across Reach to boost its digital reporting teams this year, with 12 new online editorial hires in recent months plus additional social media resources shared with the Mirror and Express.

Daily Star space correspondent: ‘We had to go further’

“It is a much bigger topic than what’s going on on Earth,” Moran, who was previously audience writer at the Star and has worked at the Times, Jewish Chronicle, The Lady and more, said. “Frankly, it’s the biggest beat in journalism.

“Now, if people want to read it or not or whether they get bored after the first month, that’s for them to decide, but I’m having the best time and I can foresee myself writing four or five articles a day about this stuff for the rest of my life really. There’s so much to look at and things keep changing.”

Daily Star editor-in-chief Jon Clark said: “With every newsbrand and their mum still going on about going global and doing a digital transformation, we knew we had to go further. And what’s further than the corners of the universe?

“Our readers have always known life is out there and now we intend to make the Star their go-to for space news. When ET does decide to go public we’ll be the obvious choice for that world exclusive.”

Print circulation of the Daily Star has been coming down to Earth in recent years and stood at 211,390 in August 2021.

But the title’s fast-growing website has been taking off and attracted some 24m monthly visits in July, according to Similarweb data.

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