Polar Bear Beat Up

Last night Media Watch had a look at the recent story about animal rights activists wanting to have a polar bear cub put down and found that it originated with a tabloid beat up that completely misrepresented the people in question. It seems that pretty much every week they have a story which has been passed around the world’s media without anyone checking the facts behind it (for example last week there was misrepresentation of the comments of an ADHD expert). Should every news outlet check out the details of every story they come across from the source? Well, can you imagine being the subject of a story that gains attention worldwide and having every newspaper, radio station, tv station, news websites ..etc contacting you for verification? Also it would be a huge burden for these people to check every single story that crosses the news desk by contacting the source, on the other hand they must bear responsibility for anything they present as news. I’m not sure exactly where a reasonable compomise lies, but I suspect that currently we are not there. For a start, if someone gets a story from another news source, perhaps they could at least find out whether that news source obtained it or verified it first hand. At the very least, in a case where the story involves something quite outrageous (like animal activists wanting to kill an animal) then it seems that extra checking should be done.
Media Watch had a particular interest in polar bears last night with another story about the questionable use of a photograph of polar bears. This is an interesting example as the photo illustrates a scenario which is predicted to occur (or possibly already is), but that is not what is actually depicted in the photo. The proper use of this image would have been to say that it was taken in summer, close to the coast, but to point out that under the predictions of climate models that this is a scenario that would be played out far from land, leaving the bears stranded. I note however, that those using the photo were not necessarily aware of this, so I’m not suggesting dishonesty. Essentially it is the same problem as above – something gets passed through enough hands that the origin is forgotten – so there is basically the same solution, given that it is such a striking image some investigation into its origin would have been wise.

5 replies on “Polar Bear Beat Up”

  1. Bill says:

    Hey Stu,

    I’ve been a little put off by the recent shift in media watch to this type of story. I don’t really know what it should be doing instead though. It seems useful to me to clear up these ‘viral lies’ but it doesn’t seem like its very insightful (both these stories set off my bullshit detector).

    What do you think of the new SBS world news?

  2. Stu says:

    I’ve not had a problem with Media Wath but I’m starting to think about it now.
    I haven’t seen the SBS news, I tend not to watch TV news much. If anything I tend to see ABC sometimes.

  3. Bill says:

    Two words: stan grant.

  4. The Don says:

    Monica Attard is an effective cure for insomnia.

  5. Stu says:

    Well, perhaps there’s one thing about the latest series that we can all agree on as being good – they’ve included Glenn Milne’s drunken attack on Stephen Mayne in the opening credits.

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