It’s been over a week since an incident involving an 11-year-old girl being bitten by a bluefish was falsely reported as a shark attack by multiple media outlets. Within less than 24 hours after the “story” broke, an AFP release revealed that “maritime experts later concluded that the bite suffered by the girl was too small to have been caused by a shark and was compatible instead with the marks that would be left by a bluefish.”
While it’s not uncommon for details of breaking news to be sketchy, if not entirely inaccurate, most media outlets tend to follow-up on a story when it turns out the story has been falsely or incorrectly reported. However, that doesn’t appear to be the case with the following publications:
- The Daily Mail – British holidaymakers warned to stay away from Spanish beaches after shark attack on schoolgirl
- The Leader – BATHERS URGED TO REMAIN VIGILANT AROUND TARRAGONA BEACHES
- The Daily Star – COSTA GIRL IS SAVAGED BY SHARK
All three of these publications ran stories reporting a shark attack caused by a blue shark, yet none of them have any follow-up story clarifying that no such shark attack occurred, nor that the injured girl was bitten by a bluefish. It should be pointed out that The Daily Mail and The Daily Star both appear to be tabloid-style “news.” However, The Leader looks to be a “legitimate” news source. In addition to the three sources above, The Barcelona Reporter, ran a sensationalized version of the story, Blue shark bites girl in Spain, nearly severs foot, off Tarragona beach. To The Barcelona Reporter’s credit, they did add a paragraph at the end of their story mentioning that it was later concluded that the bite was consistent with a bluefish bite, but they didn’t change the headline of the story nor did they remove the content in the story claiming that a blue shark almost severed the girl’s foot.
While most of the publications that ran with this story seem to be far-from-reliable sources of news, the story and lack of follow-up illustrate how sensationalism and fear-mongering seem to be more attractive “news” than actually reporting the facts, whenever a shark is involved (or not involved, at all, in this instance).