Connect with us


Island View: Who said shark attack?

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: There is a great responsibility in the media to understand the impact and long-term effects of the language used in stories from ‘Negro’ to ‘shark attack’.

The term Negro started to fall out of favor in the United States by 1966 and was completely taboo by the mid-1980s.

Given the politically correct nature that balanced, main-stream media take, it is no wonder the term has fallen out of use, as experts were at their wits’ end about its meaning. Some were saying it was as euphonious as ‘black’ or ‘Afro-American’ while others claimed it was an inaccurate epithet that perpetuated the master-slave mentality. Not hard to get our heads around why a potentially harmful word loaded with disputed connotation was dropped from neutral reporting.

In 2012, AP nixed ‘homophobia’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’.

“Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities, a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don’t feel that’s quite accurate,” AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO. “We want to be precise and accurate and neutral in our phrasing.”

So what about ‘shark attack’? Is that really what happened on Karon Beach? Following the breakdown of evidence from shark expert David Martin, there is no doubt that the Australian woman was bitten by a shark, albeit a small one – but is that an ‘attack’?

The American Elasmobranch Society, the world’s largest professional organization of shark and ray scientists, recently issued a resolution calling for the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook and the Reuters Style Guide to retire the phrase ‘shark attack’ in favor of a more accurate and less inflammatory wording that would represent the real risk and outcomes from a shark incident, explained David Shiffman in Southern Fried Science.

Currently, though ‘shark attack’ is associated with an image of a large shark and a human fatality, the phrase is used by the media as a catch-all to describe any encounter between a human and a shark, Mr Shiffman said.

The scientific community argues that the following terminology would ensure more accurate reporting and ensure that the general public had a better understanding of the situation at hand: shark sighting, shark encounter, shark bite and fatal shark bite. They of course went into details about what each category means – but true to the goal of the call, the terminology gets the point across.

Accuracy in the terminology used would also mean that in the case of the Phuket shark bite, the government wouldn’t have to weigh up the possibility of damage being done to the tourism industry by large media companies around the world, such as when The Guardian runs headlines like “Australian woman ‘attacked by shark’ off Phuket”. Such headlines, as well as the first headline used by the Phuket Gazette for the story, do indeed invoke images of Jaws – a man-eating great white shark prowling the coastal waters of Phuket.

Nothing could be further from reality. Other publications, such as, the Brisbane Times and the Sydney Morning Herald should be commended for their ethical approach to the story. The Gazette too should get a tip of the hat with the headline ‘Phuket shark bite confirmed’.

Sharks have enough problems in Thai waters without the media stirring up a feeding frenzy that puts even more of them on the ice trays of seafood restaurants in Kata and Karon.

— Alex Stone


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand11 mins ago

Thailand News Today | More Dark red zones, ‘coup rumour’ quashed | August 2

Thailand32 mins ago

Man arrested for allegedly robbing 7-Eleven stores in Bangkok to pay off gambling debt

Thailand1 hour ago

Protestors fill Bangkok streets to protest Prayut, many protest leaders present

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Crime1 hour ago

Teenagers arrested for allegedly running underage prostitution racket

Thailand2 hours ago

PM’s daughters get letter asking them to tell their father to resign

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

Monday Covid Update: 17,970 new cases, provincial totals

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
News3 hours ago

Police bust gambling operations in Bangkok and Kamphaeng Phet

Best of4 hours ago

Chiang Mai’s 5 best eco-friendly hotels

Coronavirus (Covid-19)4 hours ago

‘Dark red’ curfews, interprovincial public transport ban possibly until Aug 31 – CCSA

Thailand5 hours ago

The Thaiger launches the ‘I Am Strong’ campaign

Chon Buri5 hours ago

Narcolepsy suspected as cause of car accident in Chon Buri

Best of6 hours ago

Top 5 hair salons in Bangkok

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Healthcare worker pleads with PM to set up “war room” to manage pandemic

Best of6 hours ago

The best backpacker hostels in Phuket

Politics6 hours ago

Official detained after spreading rumour of planned coup to oust PM

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8