Tagged sensationalism

Should this kind of thing be part of Shark Week?

DiscoveryNetworks YouTube Channel has released another round of promotional videos from Shark Week 2011. The clip is taken from “Killer Sharks: The Attacks of Black December” and portrays a rather gruesome shark attack reenactment. For anybody familiar with the film “Jaws,” there are more than a few noticeable similarities between this clip and the Alex Kintner scene.

Another clip from “Rogue Sharks” (also a part of this year’s “Shark Week”) features even more blood and gore. The clip from “Rogue Sharks” is narrated by the victim of a white shark attack who recounts his encounter. The victim was bitten twice and after the second bit the shark remained latched on to his leg.

Discovery’s “Shark Week” has faced criticism in the past for this kind of programming, and it seems that these types of shows are in the minority for this year’s “Shark Week.” So, do you think the style of programming seen in the clip above belongs on “Shark Week” or not? You can share your opinion the comments section.

Discovery to continue shark attack spectacle with 2010 Shark Week?

Update:It has since been reported that Discovery has decided to pull the re-enactment of the attack from the 2010 Shark Week programming. Kudos to Discovery for responding to the requests of friends and family of the victim.

According to TCPalm, Discovery Channel’s 2010 Shark Week will include a program focusing on shark attacks titled, “Day of the Shark III.” The program will focus on six shark attacks and feature a re-enactment of the fatal shark attack on a Stuart, Florida man, who was attacked while kiteboarding on February 3rd of this year.

TCPalm quoted Stephanie Forsberg, a friend of the victim and an organizer of a memorial fund in his name, as saying…

“I love the Discovery Channel, but to do a re-enactment, and do it this soon, I don’t think they’re being very sensitive to this community, to Steve’s family and especially to his mother.”

Forsberg went on to say…

“I think they (the Discovery Channel) just want to boost their ratings. This is just too soon for a lot of us.”

As last year’s Shark Week illustrated, Discovery’s approach of sensationalizing shark attacks does, indeed, result in a boost in their ratings. It should come as no surprise that they are stooping to the same tactics with this year’s programming for Shark Week. At the end of the day, it’s all about ratings (and advertising money) for Shark Week.

Fear sells better than education does, apparently. When it comes to Shark Week, Discovery Channel seems to have abandoned the education aspect a long time ago.

National Geographic plays up 1992 Crittercam bull shark attack

Kids, don’t try this at home (or while vacationing in Mexico)…

National Geographic recently posted the video above to their YouTube channel which features cameraman Nick Caloyianis being charged and bitten by a bull shark, after researchers attempted to attach one of National Geographic’s Crittercams to the animal. Upon being stuck with a barb, the bull shark escaped the Crittercam crew and began to swim away, when a fisherman attempted to hook it in the mouth. The shark appears to have previously sustained some serious injuries to the side of its jaw (there appear to be two hooks visible in the shark’s flesh in one of the close-up shots) that the fisherman was attempting to hook. Upon being hooked, the shark turned around and swam toward Caloyianis, biting his leg and eventually his hand. Fortunately, Caloyianis made a full-recovery from his injuries.
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Rogue sharks to be hunted down, shot in the head, and have spine severed?!?!

File this one under “over the top” response. According to Perth’s The Sunday Times, Western Australia Government’s Shark Hazard Committee has revealed revealed a plan of attack for dealing with “rogue sharks.”

According to Tina Thorne, WA Department of Fisheries strategic compliance manager, the series of actions for dealing with rogue sharks would involve hooking an offending shark on a baited drumline, hauling it aboard a boat, shooting it in the head, and then “severing its spinal cord and bleeding it out.” Thorne stated that these measures would be a “last resort” and only take place in extreme circumstances involving a rogue shark attacking a human and continuing to pose a significant threat to humans, AND the attacking shark would have to be positively identified. Thorne also stated that since white sharks are a protected species that “a special exemption from the law was required by Fisheries Minister Norman Moore to kill one.”

Great white sharks are a protected species in WA, and special exemption from the law would be required to hunt one down.

In 3 of the last 4 fatal shark attacks in WA, the shark responsible was never spotted. Only in the case of an attack on Brian Guest did the shark remain in the area after the attack. According to The Sunday Times article, Guest’s family was angered by the Shark Hazard Committee’s recent talks of killing sharks. A friend of the Guest family said that Guest’s wife and son stood by the idea that “sharks belong in the marine environment and should not be harmed.”

While I certainly believe that protecting humans from shark attacks is a serious and important issue. The idea of hunting a specific shark down, shooting it in the head, severing its spine, and bleeding it out seems so ridiculous that I would expect to find the idea in a really bad shark-themed horror movie. Instead, we find the idea coming from a government committee assigned with the task of dealing with real-world shark attacks. Even Ms. Thorne’s comments seem to indicate that the circumstances that would result in this method of response ever occurring seemed highly unlikely. Based on The Sunday Times article it seems like the only time these measures would be considered would be if a shark similar to the one in a certain famous shark movie showed up, attacked a human, and then continued to terrorize a beach area. I guess anything is possible, but I wonder why there was no mention of hiring a local crusty shark hunter to get the job done. I guess they didn’t want him interrupting the Shark Hazard Committee meeting by scratching his fingernails on the chalkboard.

2010 starts off with the return of the “monster shark” to the news

The Courier Mail is starting off 2010 with a spin-off story involving the “monster” great white shark reportedly responsible for a shark-on-shark attack on another great white back in October. As everybody knows, sequels generally don’t live up to the original, but that hasn’t slowed down the Courier Mail. According to the article, surfer Russell Specht survived a “terrifying” encounter with a “monster” white shark off of Main Beach, North Stradbroke Island (Queensland, AUS). The article also states that Specht, local lifesavers, and boardriders fear that this was the same shark responsible for the “horrifying” shark-on-shark attack in October. Specht, who described the animal as approaching “like a submarine,” estimated that the shark was at least 4m (13′) in length. Four other surfers were with Specht when someone spotted the shark (or “monster” as it is referred to in the article). Specht’s mates immediately headed toward the beach leaving him alone in the water with the approaching shark. Specht said the shark passed directly underneath him, as he sat motionless on his board, at a depth of about 1m (3.3′) before veering off and swimming away.

Some more non-monster great white sharks. At least, I don't think these are monster sharks.

The article goes on to mention that the co-ordinator of Surf Life Saving Queensland Gold Coast services, Stuart Hogben, supports Specht’s suspicions that he saw the same great white shark responsible for the shark-on-shark attack in October. However, neither Hogben nor the article’s author make mention of any evidence as to why they believe this is the same shark, other than to say that Hogben witnessed several sharks in the 2-3m range about 200-300m offshore of the island’s surf side, during a helicopter flight last weekend.

The Courier Mail has pulled out all the stops with this story. It’s filled to the brim with sensationalism. The author throws in words like “terrifying,” “horrifying,” and “monster.” The story seems crafted to play up the fear angle that was also exploited when the initial shark-on-shark attack story broke, yet this story fails to contain any facts or evidence to support the theory of Specht and Hogben. There is no mention of the discrepancy in the size of the shark believed to be responsible for the shark-on-shark attack compared to the size of the shark Specht encountered. The estimated size of the shark involved in the October attack as being 5-5.2m (16.4-17′), according to Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries manager, Tony Ham. Ham’s team estimated the shark’s length based on the bite wounds to the shark carcass from the October attack. Specht, on the other hand, reported the shark he saw as being at least 4m (13.1′). Granted, the term “at least” does leave some wiggle room for the shark’s actual size, but we’re talking about a difference of at least 1m (3.3′).

Then there’s this whole issue of “monster” sharks. A 4m white shark is certainly a large shark when compared to the size of human, but for a species known to reach lengths of 6m (19.7′), it escapes me how the shark that Specht saw has achieved its “monster” status. Perhaps, the “monster” title is independent of size. However, if that were the case, it would seem that the “monster” status would have to be earned based on monstrous behavior. In the case of Specht, the only thing the shark reportedly did was swim in close proximity of Mr. Specht and some other surfers, which hardly seems to be monster-worthy activity. Despite the lack of any real confrontation between the shark and Specht, the Courier Mail article is adorned with a headline that mentions a “face-off” between Specht and the shark. Since there was fortunately no reported confrontation between the shark and Specht, we can only assume that the two were beginning a friendly game of hockey. Now, THAT would be a newsworthy shark story.