Sharks In Perspective
Sharks In Perspective: From Fear To Fascination
June 12-14, 2002
"News" is not an absolute-it is relative
What is "news" in Florida may not be "news" in New Jersey. What is "news" in the summer of 2001 may not have been "news" in the summer of 2000. News is not scientific data, it is a reflection of current public reality. In today's world, all shark attacks are news, at one level or another. It's a reflection of prevailing public opinion and human nature.
Media can do a better job of not sensationalizing shark issues by avoiding clichés and silly terms
...such as "man-eaters," "monsters of the deep," and "shark-infested waters." Writers need to educate editors and news directors about this, because they write the headlines and teases.
Reporting "attacks" versus "bites," etc. is going to require input of experts to clarify differences between degrees of severity. [The International Shark Attack File currently is developing such a scale.]
The media don't understand the distinction between "provoked" and "unprovoked" shark attacks
The International Shark Attack File defines a provoked attack as one in which actions of a human incited the interaction between shark and human. Examples of provoked attacks are: (1) a fisher bitten while unhooking a shark or removing one from a net, (2) a diver bitten after grabbing a shark, (3) a bather bitten after inadvertently kicking a shark or a surfer bitten after landing on a shark after "wiping out," and (4) a diver bitten in a aquarium while feeding a shark. Unprovoked attacks are incidents in which the shark initiates the interaction in its natural environment without human provocation.
The media invites participation from all sectors
Although virtually all shark attacks are news, there are many other shark-related stories to be covered that can be pursued, e.g. scientific research on sharks, fisheries issues, conservation, etc.
Full, equal access to media outlets exist for all: scientists, educators, fishers, regulators, not only to those who have the most funds behind them.
Those groups that feel "underrepresented" in the media need to be more proactive and better organized in getting their side of the story out.
The same stories must be told over and over and over again
Why? Because new people-viewers, readers, etc. are coming "online" all the time. So even though the information may seem repetitive, there are always new people who need to be informed
- Bob Hueter, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, FL [Moderator]
- George Burgess, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
- Bob Hite, WFLA Channel 8 (NBC), Tampa, FL
- Kevin Lollar, Ft. Myers News-Press, Ft. Myers, FL