Time Magazine article on sharks and media frenzy

Time.com has an article up (interestingly it’s currently dated at August 10, 2009, which I’m guessing is the date it will appear in print) titled, Threats with Teeth. The article, written by James Poniewozik, discusses how the media focuses on media overkill and uses the media (over-)reaction to “minor shark attacks” in the summer of 2001, which the media dubbed “Summer of the Shark” as an example.

Poniewozik likens “living every week like it’s Shark Week” to dealing with our current media environment…

To live every week like it’s Shark Week, then, might be a metaphor for living in our media environment: to spend every week titillated by unlikely threats, getting whipped into frenzies, yawning over high-minded stuff like health-care policy and supping from the delicious chum bucket of hysteria.

A completely non-threatening white shark
Seriously, now, does this look threatening?
I think Poniewozik is pretty well on-point with the article, and I agree that it seems like society seems more concerned with sensational-yet-unlikely threats than the more boring-yet-likely ones. The news media is a big money-making industry, and at the end of the day, fear of the unknown and unlikely sells. Threats like automobile accidents on the way to the beach, drowning, over-exposure to the sun, bee stings, and jellyfish stings are far more likely to result in the death of a beachgoer than a shark attack, but those other threats are all so passe, in the eyes of the media, compared to the thought of a shark biting someone. As Poniewozik sums it up in the closing paragraph of the article…

…that one-in-a-million chance of being done in by a primeval predator from the murky depths–that’s the threat with teeth.

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