I was reminded that I have intended to write about declining shark populations by a Michigan State study which looked at media coverage of these animals. The news is not good, as you might expect. Science Daily reported on the results in Sharks: Bad Creatures Or Bad Image?
Historically, the media have been particularly harsh to sharks, and it's affecting their survival. The results of a Michigan State University study, appearing in the current issue of the journal Conservation Biology, reviewed worldwide media coverage of sharks — and the majority isn't good.
Australian and U.S. news articles were more likely to focus on negative reports featuring sharks and shark attacks rather than conservation efforts.
Allowing such articles to dominate the overall news coverage diverts attention from key issues, such as shark populations are declining worldwide and many species are facing extinction, said Meredith Gore, MSU assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife and the School of Criminal Justice.
"The most important aspect of this research is that risks from - rather than to -- sharks continue to dominate news coverage in large international media markets," said Gore, part of the research team led by Bret Muter, formerly at MSU and now with the Udall Foundation. "To the extent that media reflect social opinion, this is problematic for shark conservation."
According to the study, more than 52 percent of global coverage focused on shark attacks on people, and sharks were portrayed negatively in nearly 60 percent of the coverage. That's compared to a mere 10 percent featuring shark conservation issues and just 7 percent focusing on shark biology or ecology.
If we think of human life on this planet as a bad situation comedy, and I don't think that's too big a stretch, it appears that humans have both figuratively and literally jumped the shark. The phrase was coined by radio personality Jon Hein to describe "the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase is also used to refer to a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of "gimmick" in a desperate attempt to keep viewers' interest."
[Image left: Fonzie jumps the shark on an episode of Happy Days which aired September 20, 1977]
Shark declines are driven by a multitude of factors, including soaring demand for shark fin soup. I will report on threatened sharks at some point in the near future.
I see that the despicable hack Steven Spielberg has directed another movie, this time about Abraham Lincoln. Many of you may not be old enough to remember how this acclaimed Hollywood icon came to fame, so here you go.
There is a creature alive today who has survived millions of years of evolution without change, without passion, and without logic. It lives to kill. A mindless eating machine, it will attack and devour anything. It is as if God created the Devil, and gave him Jaws.