The missing words: man attacked by black bear

The CBC headline is straight forward: Man attacked by black bear near Smoky Lake. The deck (the line under the headline) is equally straight forward: The man sustained claw and bite wounds to his chest, legs and arms.

Journalists know that a headline can make or break a story. After all, what gets eyes on the copy is a gripping headline. And this story certainly has one.

But it did leave out one little factoid: the man was a hunter who had just shot the bear. We can kind of understand the grumpy attitude of a black bear with a round in his chest, swiping at the man who had put it there. Though, for some reason, the CBC writers did not deem it necessary to include this in their headline.

It seems that Canadian media has become obsessed with bear attacks this year. Regardless of the level of conflict, injuries or provocation to the bear, it instantly becomes front page news. The CBC story even goes on to list other “attacks” which includes two joggers being followed by a bear. That’s it. Followed. No interaction, and the bear wandered off.

We’d label this media sensationalism, but it goes a bit further than that. It’s the “shark week” concept – take a bunch of interesting items, ram them together with loose connections that have no actual merit and market it as an all-out attack on human beings.

Media awareness is something all advocates need to be schooled in – how to read a news story, pick out the elements of fact and disregard the bias – and there is always bias. This is critical not just for the advocates, but for the people they interact with: family, neighbours, friends and so on.

This incident is surely unfortunate – a man was injured and a bear lost his life. But misleading headlines do no benefit to either of them.

Photo by Charlie Short

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