The Media Portrayal of Sharks

Media influences our lives more than we realize. We watch the news, television, movies, listen to the radio, and scroll through social media. Whether we realize it or not, this media interaction shapes how we view the world and everything in it. Sharks are no exception. News stations and newspapers all tell stories of shark attacks, and because we are so influenced by the media, we believe all of it, even the falsehoods. In this article, I will discuss how the news stations can twist stories, how Hollywood movies influence our thinking, and how social media can be used to actually help change the view of sharks from negative to positive.

Shark Allies, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving sharks, says, “Unfortunately though, a large percentage of stories portray sharks in either a negative or a false light. According to a recent study reviewing media coverage of sharks by Michigan State University, 52% of coverage of sharks focused on shark attacks on people, and 60% of that portrayed the shark negatively. Comparatively, the media surrounding sharks that was focused on their conservation was only 10%! And only 7% focused on shark biology and ecology. The facts cannot compete with clicks, likes, shares and money. That’s the root of it all.” from

Shark Allies also gives an example through an interview they did with a “shark attack” survivor. I strongly encourage you to check out this video at It really exposes the media’s hunger for twisting encounters to make for a good plot. When the news makes these stories, we are always the victims and the sharks are always the “bad guys”. We hear of shark attacks all the time on the news, where an average of 4 people die each year from a shark attack. However, we do not hear about the 73-100 million sharks that are killed each year by the shark finning industry, where we are actually the “bad guys” and they are the victims.

Hollywood loves sharks. They portray them as the monsters of the film, always out to get people. This is shown in movies such as JAWS, The Shallows, 47 Meters Down, The Meg, and many others. When I interviewed some fellow divers aboard Horizon Charters, I asked them why they thought the public was so afraid of sharks, even if they didn’t live near the ocean. The most common answer was that the movie Jaws had a big part of it. In a separate interview with Shark Week’s Andy Casagrande, he said the same thing. Movies can influence how we perceive the world and everything in it.

Despite the negative uses of media, it can also be used to help sharks. Movies, news stations, radio, articles, books, magazines, social media, etc. can all help bring awareness for protecting sharks, but I will just focus on social media for now. I have three social media accounts, one personal, one for No MO Shark Fins, and one for Sharkchic Photography. I use all three to bring awareness to our environment, our oceans, and our sharks. I post about the articles I publish, the presentations I have given, the photos I have taken, how we can help sharks, and more. I have seen that many other people do this as well, and I follow those accounts to learn about how they are helping sharks too. Living in Missouri, it is hard for me to come in contact with people passionate about sharks. Using social media, I have found a community of shark lovers, and it is so much fun to share about these amazing animals with the world. Social media, like movies and news stations, can be used for shining a negative light on sharks as well. However, we always have a choice about what we post and what we share, it is more readily available for the general public’s use, and there is little to no money involved in it.

We have discussed how the news stations can twist stories, how Hollywood movies influence our thinking, and how social media can be used to actually help change the view of sharks from negative to positive. As I say in every post I make and every article I write, we need to save sharks. They need us, and we need them. Naming them as “bad guys” reduces the number of people who realize their importance and the need to save them. As a society, we have almost brainwashed ourselves into thinking that they are truly monsters. We need to respect them, not fear them (see my article The View of Sharks: Which lens do you look through?). When we come to realize the true nature of sharks, we realize that they are inhabiting the same planet we are, and have just as much of a desire to survive.

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