How sharks and shark - human interactions are reported in major Australian newspapers

Nigel Hardiman, Shelley Burgin, Jia Shao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)


Few phrases evoke more negative emotion, or generate more media coverage, than ‘shark attack’ despite few deaths 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 record 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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2683
Number of pages18
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution
(CC BY) license (


The research received no external funding.


  • 'Fake news'
  • Anthropogenic focus
  • Biased reporting
  • Genre bias reporting
  • Marine ecosystems
  • News media bias
  • Shark attacks
  • Shark conservation
  • Shark incidents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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