Tagged media sensationalism

Great white shark photographed off Florida Keys

WVSN-TV reports that photographer Guillaume Bauch captured some relatively rare underwater shots of a great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) off the Florida Keys. The WVSN-TV report does seem to go a bit overboard with terms like “monster shark” and “cold-blood killer,” but Bauch’s account of the encounter manages to steer clear of such cliches.

Bauch was planning on photographing hammerhead sharks, but the hammerheads never showed. Bauch was beginning to think the trip would end in disappointment. Fortunately, a dorsal fin eventually appeared, but it was not that of hammerhead or silky shark, which are typical for the area. Instead, it was the dorsal fin of a white shark.

Bauch initially opted to photograph the white shark from a cage, but soon left the cage and photographed the shark in open water. Based on Bauch’s photos and reaction in his interview with WVSN-TV, it seems like he had a pretty good trip, after all.

Media sensationalizes fatal orca attack at Sea World

Numerous media outlets are reporting that a female Sea World Orlando employee was fatally attacked by an orca today. Orlando’s Local 6 identifies the orca involved as Tillikum, a 12,300 lbs. male. Park manager, Dan Brown, identified the victim as being one of the park’s “most experienced trainers.” According to the Local 6 report, the victim slipped and fell into the orca’s tank and was subsequently attacked by the orca.

Unfortunately, it seems that orcas have become just as susceptible to media sensationalism as sharks. This ABC clip is a prime example…

The clip plays out more like a guy announcing a pro-wrestling match than it does a news story. This is an incredibly tragic story, as such, it needs to be handled objectively with journalistic integrity, instead of being covered like it was a monster truck rally.

Misleading Shark Headline of the Week

Congrats NY Daily News!
Congrats NY Daily News!
And the winner is…The New York Daily News for the headline, Australian man fends off Great White with oar, gets two shark teeth as souvenir. The headline accompanied the story mentioned here yesterday about a white shark grabbing an oar from the hands of volunteer lifeguard, Greg Ross, while he was in a surf boat off of Hawks Nest Beach. According to Ross’ own account, he did not in any way use the oar to "fend off" the shark, rather Ross had a hold of the oar when the shark grabbed a hold of it and pulled it from his hands before he even saw the shark. The article also claims that the shark was “so intent on devouring the oar” that it left two teeth embedded in it. While the shark did, in fact, leave two teeth behind, it was also “so intent on devouring the oar” that it lost interest in it and left the oar in the water for Ross and his crew to recover.

The claim that Ross “fended off” the shark with the oar is about as accurate as saying that a pickpocket victim fended off his assailant with a wallet.

The NY Daily News also earns extra special points for using the “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” reference in a hard news story.

Oh no! Another “monster” great white shark!

Apparently, this is the year of so-called “monster sharks” as is evidenced by a Herald Sun article, Monster great white photographed in Port Phillip Bay. According to the story, Ray Theuma and Brian Bell, were fishing in Port Philip Bay (Australia) about 7km from shore, when a 4m great white shark approached their boat. According to Theuma, the shark touched the boat three times and circled it for approximately 10 minutes.

Much like another “monster shark” in the recent media, it’s unclear what the actual size of this recent “monster shark” is. The Herald Sun refers to it as a “4m monster” at one point, yet Theuma is quoted as saying the shark was the same size as his 4.6m boat. To further complicate the report, The Herald Sun lists the boat as being 4m and the shark being larger than the boat, in the text accompanying a photo gallery with images of the shark.

It is still unclear to me what criteria must be met for a shark to achieve the rank of “monster shark,” but I think it probably has something to do with trying to sell more newspapers.

In other (apparently non-monster) white shark news from the Herald Sun, a white shark snatched an oar from the hands of man in a surf boat off of Hawks Nest Beach. According to the Herald Sun, Greg Ross had a hold of the oar when he felt a “thump” and then saw the white shark “writhing” with the oar in its mouth. After a “good minute” the shark lost interest and swam away. Ross, who works as a volunteer lifeguard at the beach, said that the he and his colleagues see white sharks “all the time.” Ross went on to say that the white sharks, which he and his colleagues refer to as “pets,” do not worry them much.