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Shark Week appears to be overly sensational this year -- good or bad?


It's "Shark Week" and Discovery Channel has put together a lineup of shows sure to inform and, it might seem to some, inspire fear at a time when conservationists are trying to dispel the myth that sharks are out for blood.

The program opened Sunday with the 1916 story that inspired the making of "Jaws," involving the first multiple shark attack in American history, off New Jersey beaches.

Here's the remaining lineup (all shows begin at 9 p.m. PDT):

Tonight: "Deadly Waters," with attack survivor Lee Stroud on a mission to find the world's deadliest shark waters; and a 10 p.m. encore called "Day of the Shark," involving a great white that plows through a diving cage, trapping the divers inside.

Tuesday: "Sharkbite Summer," focusing on a spate of attacks in 2001 and revisiting the sites where the attacks occurred, featuring interviews with victims, doctors and shark experts.

Wednesday: "Great White Appetite," which will explore the predator's eating habits at various white shark haunts around the world.

Thursday: "Shark After Dark," which explores the nocturnal habits of sharks using various equipment and a team of divers that travels to various hunting grounds of white sharks, tiger sharks and six-gill sharks.

An intriguing schedule, but judging from the show descriptions they appear to be light on research and heavy on sensational events. Better for ratings, I guess.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A great white shark. Credit: David Fleetham / Discovery Channel

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Comments (19)

Yes, Discovery Channel did seem to be going for ratings this year, and its unfortunate that in this effort, the truth about sharks was sacrificed. The emphasis on shark attacks by animals on the verge of extinction is seriously reinforcing the barrier conservationists face in their efforts to save them. There is a deep predjudice against snakes, too, but at least it is acknowledged. The predjudice against sharks is not, and Discovery Channel's continued pushing of the image of sharks as monsters has convinced many people that they really are the way they are shown. So the conservation messages are rendered meaningless.

This years Shark Week has revealed a bacchanalia of man made shark horror well beyond any concerns the shark conservation community and commercial shark diving community could have fathomed.

Without a doubt Discovery Networks have reinvented Sea Monsters, erroneously establishing the shark as the most feared predator on the planet.

34 years after JAWS, and 34 years of conservation science discoveries, pro-shark media, and conservation themed initiatives have been swept away by the 2009 Discovery Channel anti-shark juggernaut. This year broadcast in gory, blood soaked HD, to an estimated 30 million domestic viewers.

Great for advertising revenues, lousy for the perception of sharks worldwide who have been thrown back to the stone age with last nights docu drama, "Blood in the water" and this weeks entire line up of gratuitous Shark Porn.

As a commercial shark diving operator I find over hyping one small facet of a sharks entire Raison d'etre to be patently dishonest and a disservice to animals that are suffering one of the highest rates of destruction on the planet.

Approximately 90 million sharks are killed each year. That's a stunning statistic. And yet Discovery Networks feels compelled to bring back the 1970's shark mythos, blood and fear, with absolutely no Sympathy for the Devil.

At the same time Discovery Networks have rolled out a simply draconian and somewhat East Bloc ham fisted media campaign showing conservation for sharks. An afterthought pushed out by Discovery and it's hand selected group of "Shark Porn Programming Apologists" to mollify the growing push back from an appalled research, science, and commercial dive community.

To those who are supporting the very dark decision by Discovery Network executives to bring back, promote, and hype the fear of sharks, rethink your position.

At a critical time when sharks, as a measure of the health of our oceans, need as much support as we can give them, programming decisions that demonize these animals for ratings, ad sales, and corporate profits are wrong, dishonest, and bordering on fraudulent.

Discovery started Shark Week 20 years ago with programming that was fresh, alive and informative. Our company along with many others have been involved in some of that programming and happy with the results.

Early Shark Week programming started with unflinching production companies striving to produce they best they could, fully engaging local operators to introduce them to the full range of shark behaviors.

Discovery has officially lost it's way. It can come back, hopefully this is the final year of Shark Porn. Hopefully those within the community who are currently in bed with Discovery Networks "will see the light".

As both the alcohol and tobacco industries have discovered you cannot sell these toxic brands to minors and then ask them to "drink and smoke responsibly".

Discovery Networks cannot sell fear and loathing of sharks...and then push for conservation.

Patric Douglas CEO

HAHAHAH Great line from Jaws!! Classic. Pictured Captain as I read along..

Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We'd just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn't know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin' by, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the infantry squares in the old calendars like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin' and hollerin' and sometimes that shark he go away... but sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn't even seem to be livin'... 'til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin' and your hollerin' those sharks come in and... they rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don't know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I do know how many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin', Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson's mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist. At noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Hooper here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol' fat PBY come down and started to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened. Waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

I think the Pete's point is a valid, considering that Discovery Channel promotes itself as "the #1 non-fiction media company in the world, Discovery Communications strives to educate and inform viewers about our planet."

Discovery is supposed to be an educational outlet, yet many of the programs run during Shark Week seemed to be more about shock and awe than educating viewers. If Shark Week was being run on a horror channel, then I don't think Pete would have a leg to stand on in the argument. However, it's being run on a station that claims to have "the goal of educating viewers about the plight of sharks and encouraging them to take action,” and that they will be “putting all of our media weight behind this effort," according to Discovery Channel President, John Ford. Yet, at the same time, they are running at least 5 ads that feature fictional shark attacks on humans to promote the week-long programming, as well as a promotional website featuring fictional video of shark attacks on humans and a dog. Ford even admits to "playing on the fears of people" for marketing purposes.

So, yes, I think it's safe to say that Shark Week is being a bit overly sensational this week. The Discovery Channel's marketing team knows what they're doing, and this year's Shark Week will likely have highest ratings yet, because of it.

Sharks are fascinating, fabulous and very safe. A typical human is far more likely to die from heart disease, stroke, cancer.. even an asteroid strike --- rather than by shark bite.

Its 1992. I'm rooming at a house at College, one that has cable with a few channels. And It's summer. What do I see advertised on the Discovery Channel then? -Shark Week- '92 I think it was.

It's 2009 and the Sharks think they've earned their own Broadcast Network for keeping their show "on the air" for so long. They want to turn NBC in to the "Nice Bite Company," CBS in to "Chum and Blood Inc." and ABC in to "Anxious Bait-Casters." Premium cable is up for grabs too -- the sharks want to turn HBO in to "Half-Body Ok, Inc." With that one, I think they might be over-reaching.

Sharks are sensational by their very nature, but I wish Discovery would run "Sharkwater" as part of shark week for a bit of balance.

People would see that not all sharks are the indiscriminate killers we've been trained to think of. Seeing a diver holding and "petting" an adult shark is amazing.

The way these beautful animals are being killed by finning is disgusting and I hope someday soon, will show how seriously we're screwing up the oceans by cutting the fins off of a top predator and dropping it back in the water to die.

Best Tracy Jordan line from 30 Rock: "Live every week like it's Shark Week."

Don't like it, don't watch it. Pretty simple, actually. Unless, of course, somebody has a gun to your head and is forcing you to watch. In which case, you better pay attention.

But for those who feel the need to complain about anything and everything they possibly can, no worries. Sharks are disappearing rapidly enough. Few years from now there won't be enough sharks left for an entire "Shark Week". Shark Day, maybe. You'll still be able to criticize Shark Day and make yourself feel better, just not as much, which'll make everybody else feel better. Win-win..

Any animal that can cut you in half with a single bite deserves a little sensationalism.

But these intense levels of violence need to be put in perspective like there have been X shark attacks per 100,000 people who have entered the water to give people a better idea of the actual risk. You want people to be aware of the risk while not being overly paralyzed by it since it is very uncommon.

I do not agree with confused. What do you work for? Newsweek, New york times? Are you trying to take bussiness away from L.A. Times?

I think its pretty much lowest common denominator feed the masses programming. But people watch. Just like a car wreck, they slow down to watch.

But as long as it keeps the kooks out of the water.....

Discovery Channel is always careful to promote the conservation of sharks during Shark Week. All of the special programs stress the importance of recognizing sharks for what they are - brilliant predatory animals that play a vital role in the Earth's ecosystem.

Shame on you for even implying the Discovery Channel is undermining shark conservation efforts with its programs!

I think it's pretty fair balanced between what people want to see and hear about with regard to shark surivival stories ala Todd Endris last night and the so called sciences based on lazy empirical data. I mean, seriously, how many stupid plaster seals and tagging ops can we watch? I want to hear about and from the people who came face to face with monster fish! And so does everyone else.

First - I don't look to the LA Times for this sort of assesment. You are not TV guide. Get out and report on real news. Second - learn something about marketing. People aren't tuning in to learn about bacterial infections in reef sharks or tooth decay in Great Whites - they are looking to be entertained by information that is relevant to them, namely attacks and the liklihood thereof. Hopefully, Discovery will be skillful enought to slip in some thoughtful information about biology, population numbers, habitats, etc. while still entertaining viewers. Third, from your own articled it appears you guys judged by titles and not content. Eating habitats, nocturnal habits, and sites of attacks offer more than just sensationalism - it's easy to judge from your own writing - WAKE UP!

sensational you say? well, they're giant fish with razor blade teeth that occasionally eat human beings. being sensational is just their nature. just ask the victims mentioned in the captions.

I love the whole idea. The more sensational the better. It might help to keep some people out of the water when I go surfing...Someday when I die I want my body thrown in the Shark tank at Seaworld and broadcast as a pay-per-view during shark week with the proceeds going to save these beautiful animals. I figure it's payback for all shark sandwichs I ate at Captin Kids.


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