Shark Bite Reporting and The New York Times

Published on
30 September 2022

Shark Bite Reporting and The New York Times

Christopher L. Pepin-Neff


The social and political dynamics around human–shark interactions are a growing area of interest in marine social science. The question motivating this article asks to what extent media reporting by The New York Times has engaged beyond the lexicon of “shark attack” discourse to describe human–shark interactions. It is important because different styles of reporting on human–shark interactions can influence the public’s perceptions about sharks and support for shark conservation. This media outlet is also a paper of record whose editorial style choices may influence the broader media landscape. I review reporting language from The New York Times for 10 years between 2012 and 2021 (n = 36). I present three findings: first, I argue that The New York Times has had an increased frequency in use of the term “shark bite” to describe human–shark interactions. Secondly, I find that shark “attack” is still used consistently with other narratives. Third, there appears to be an increased use of “sightings; encounter; and incident” descriptors since 2020. The implication of this is a layered approach to reporting on human–shark interactions that diversifies away from a one-dimensional shark “attack” discourse.

Biology 2022, 11(10), 1438; Early view version, DOI: 10.3390/biology11101438


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