Dear Media: Stop using inaccurate species images in shark attack reports

Dear Media: Stop using inaccurate species images in shark attack reports

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Luke Tipple started this petition to CNN and

TL/DR We’re asking a pretty simple thing here: when accurate information exists of the species of shark responsible for an incident/attack, please use an image of that species; when information is not available, please use a stock image that does not falsely accuse a species with zero proof.

Shark bites and attacks are scary incidents that attract a lot of media attention and clicks. The reports are media gold and often used as clickbait with associated images that are often not of the actual species involved. This results in a false attribution of shark attacks to certain key species such as Great White Sharks (White Pointers). To the casual reader there is little to stop this misinformation despite media outlets having access to accurate information and imagery to accompany their articles. This false attribution amounts to exploitation and has to stop, especially since they're demonizing often threatened or endangered species.

The problem largely arises from so called 'related images’ in the media outlets database, so when the reporter writes about a shark bite (regardless of the species responsible) their database pulls up an image of a great white shark attacking a cage (or something equally fear inducing) and they select it to run as the hero image. This practice is misguided, irresponsible and morally reprehensible.

It happens time and time again and almost every media outlet is at fault. 

Real Examples:

CNN - Species depicted: Great White Shark, Species responsible: likely a small blacktip or sandbar shark

https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/05/us/florida-3-shark-attacks-trnd/index.html

CNN - Species depicted: Grey Nurse Shark, Species responsible: multiple others, Grey Nurse are not considered dangerous
https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/tips-to-avoid-shark-attacks-trnd/index.html

FOX NEWS - Species depicted: Tiger Shark, Species responsible: probably a small shark, bite marks show zero evidence of a tiger shark

https://www.foxnews.com/us/florida-man-bitten-at-beach-marking-sixth-bite-this-year-in-the-shark-attack-capital-of-the-world

FOX NEWS - Species depicted: Great White Shark, Species responsible: probably a black tip shark

https://www.foxnews.com/us/north-carolina-surfer-19-injured-in-possible-shark-attack-officials-say

Why are we annoyed? Let’s look at some theoretical examples:

If an article entitled “Africas biggest killer” ran with an image of a Lion, what would you think it was about? If you didn’t read the article you’d think, well, lions are dangerous and killing a bunch of people right? Without reading the article you wouldn’t know that the real culprit of the theoretical article was “Lower respiratory tract infections” which kill almost a million people per year in Africa. You also wouldn’t know that mosquitos and hippos are way more deadly than Lions. 

We’re asking a pretty simple thing here: when accurate information exists of the species of shark responsible for an incident/attack, please use an image of that species; when information is not available, please use a stock image that does not falsely accuse a species with zero proof.

With humans killing around 100 million sharks a year and many species being threatened with a limited survival timeline and outright extinction it’s extremely important that we not ‘ramp up’ rhetoric and fears of people who may be called upon one day to vote to save key species that keep our oceans healthy by facilitating biodiversity.

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