I am becoming increasingly infuriated with the ignorance of tabloid journalists and the way that sharks are portrayed in media. I have a feeling this will probably be the first of many posts of a similar nature.
Do we really need things like this in our papers? Okay I do understand that stories like these do sell, but I do have many issue with the journalists and media writing stories like these. Unfortunately the people who write these stories have almost no education when it comes to sharks. I often see headlines along the lines of ‘KILLER SHARK SPOTTED OFF BRITISH COAST!’ or ‘ESCAPE FROM JAWS MAN ATTACKED BY KILLER SHARK’ and often is the case these headlines are accompanied by an image of a Great White (Carcharodon carcharias) or a Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier). However, when you read the article, the shark in question is very rarely a great white, and in some cases, for instance the story of the Benidorm there wasn’t even a shark involved. Luckily, the public could see straight through the fear mongering sensationalist idiocy which these papers perpetually spew across the front page. Although some may see these articles and think, ‘oh my sharks are pure evil’, ‘in never going in the water again unless all the sharks are gone’ or even ‘okay its a little over the top but what’s the harm in it?’ It must be stated these articles are reinforcing a negative archetype which intern, hinders the conservation efforts by disengaging public through misinformation which invokes fear and generates hate for these misunderstood animals.
Unfortunately because these headlines do sell and they home in on our primal fears, spark excitement and make us think, (usually not for the right reasons) they will continue to misinform millions. So unless these papers start to employ people who actually know a thing or two about sharks, which, lets face it, they never will… we are stuck with these sensationalist stories. So, what should we do?
Throughout university, one thing is continuously drilled into you as a student, THINK CRITICALLY! When you see these headlines, opposed to seeing them and thinking ‘wow, how terrible, how terrifying, sharks are scary! we should get rid of them ect.’ We should look at these headlines with a degree of objectivity. Of course, as long as we are swimming in seas and oceans, shark-human interactions will occur and on occasion there will be attacks resulting in injury and even fatalities, and of course these rare incidents are tragic and should be treated as such.
On the other hand, when a basking shark is spotted close to shore in Cornwall or Devon. The ludicrous and unnecessary shouts begin. It is not uncommon to see lines like: ‘JAWS OF BRITISH COAST’ or ‘KILLER IN OUR WATERS’ sprawled in bold, full capital letters, usually in front of a red back drop of the front page of popular a tabloid.
When you next see these sorts of headlines just take a minute to think about who is writing the article and why, how much do they know about sharks? why are they writing it? and of course what paper is it in. Adding to this point, all papers are guilty of writing sensationalist and usually hollow stories about sharks but some papers are much worse than others. The worst offenders tend to be the daily mail, the daily star and of course the abomination which is the sun. So next time you do see these slanderous headlines on these papers, just stop and think, is this the real story? is this worth my time or money? The answer is almost always going to be no.