Few phrases evoke more negative emotion, or generate more media coverage, than ‘shark attack’ despite the few deaths that have been attributed to shark bite. Typically, tabloids are considered to provide more sensational coverage than broadsheets. We investigated how sharks and shark–human interactions were portrayed in four major Australian newspapers during a period of a record number of shark attacks in Australian waters. There was strong focus on human risk from sharks, and over-reportage of negative aspects. Thirty incidents were recorded: two fatal, 20 injury, and eight ‘near-miss’. Of 309 ‘shark’ articles surveyed, 24% mentioned fatalities (65% occurred prior to the study, some decades earlier). Injury was reported in 40% of articles, and ‘near-miss’ in 33% (89% related to an incident in South Africa involving an Australian surfing celebrity). The tabloid, Telegraph
, published substantially more shark-related articles and photographs than other newspapers. There was otherwise no consistent pattern of difference between genre or newspapers.
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