Thursday, May 11, 2017

Shark attacks man on airplane! Yikes!

Maybe this will help you understand the news. When I was a young reporter for The Associated Press in New Orleans back in the 1970s we suddenly experienced a national epidemic of shark attacks.

I responded pretty much as I do to things today: I went to some restaurant in the French Quarter, where they prepared a nice shark dish for me, and I ate it and reported on it to a grateful nation. This was my contribution to our national well being.

What was happening, of course, is that a shark bit somebody, and suddenly everyone was reporting shark attacks. They had been happening all along, of course, but they weren't news.

Apparently this happened again in 2001.
The media hysteria began in early July, when a young boy was bitten by a shark on a beach in Florida. Subsequent attacks received breathless media coverage, up to and including near-nightly footage from TV helicopters of swimming sharks. Until the 9/11 attacks, sharks were the third biggest story of the year as measured by the time dedicated to it on the three major broadcast networks' news shows.
Except there was one problem -- there was no sharp increase in attacks. In the year 2001, five people died in 76 shark attacks. However, just a year earlier, 12 people had died in 85 attacks. The data showed that 2001 actually was a down year for shark attacks.
This, as David Dao suggests, is probably the explanation for the current rash of brawls on airplanes. However, it might be wise to arm yourself with a big bag of peanuts.

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