Misleading shark news headline of the week

CBS12, this is not an award for outstanding journalism.

Another media outlet has their own great white shark related report regarding yesterday’s tragic attack off of Stuart, Florida. This one is has an even more misrepresentative headline than the Palm Beach Post “report” from earlier today. CBS12.com features a story with the headline, Expert: Great White Shark could have been behind fatal attack. The report features statements from Gary Gross, a biology professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University, who is quoted as saying, “Great whites in our area are very uncommon. They are mostly in deep waters where it’s colder. There has never been an attack here by a white shark.” In fact, the only other mention of white sharks by Professor Gross in the report deals with large sharks mistaking a kite surfer for a turtle, in which Gross is quoted as saying such a scenario is a “white shark situation.” However, Gross goes on to speculate that the attacking shark was “likely a bull shark.” (Currently, there is also no evidence to support or oppose the theory that the sharks involved in the attack were bull sharks.)

CBS12 really seems to be stretching things here. The headline suggests that Gross has indicated that he believes a white shark could be behind yesterday’s attack. However, the statements from Gross within the article suggest that he does not think that great white sharks were involved. Perhaps, a more representative headline would have read, Expert: Highly unlikely great white shark involved in attack. Of course, that might not draw nearly as much attention. It seems that media outlets have realized that great white sharks seem to draw more attention than other shark species, and the mass number of stories running with the great white shark theory (which isn’t backed up by any evidence in this particular case) just goes to show that sometimes the number of viewers/readers a story draws can overshadow truly objective reporting.

At the end of the day experts weighing in on the species involved or not involved is still nothing more than speculation, until some more details and evidence regarding the attack is available.

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