2:19 pm - 08/12/2014

Producers Behind "Shark Week" Are Misleading Credible Scientists

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Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" is misleading the public again this year with several documentaries. So why are scientists allowing themselves to be featured in these pseudoscience disasters? There's a simple reason: Shark Week producers have been lying to them.

Jonathan Davis, who now works for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, was studying the bull sharks in the Gulf of Mexico for his Masters research when he was approached by a Shark Week film crew. "They were interested in the sharks in Louisiana, and I was the person doing the research there," Davis says. He agreed to take the film crew into the field, but quickly became concerned by their refusal to answer his questions.

He said: I asked a few of the crew members, including the producer, what the show was going to be about. I never got a straight answer and the producer seemed to avoid the question. I was just told it would be combined with some other filming to make one show about Louisiana shark research.

Davis was shocked to find that his interview aired during a 2013 Shark Week special called Voodoo Shark, which was about a mythical monster shark called "Rooken" that lived in the Bayous of Louisiana. The "other filming" his interview was combined with featured a Bayou fishermen, and the clips were edited together to make it seem like a race between his team of researchers and the fishermen to see who could catch the mythical voodoo shark faster. In reality, Davis was barely asked about the voodoo shark at all. His answers from unrelated questions were edited together to make it seem like he believed in its existence and was searching for it.
Davis explained how the hoodwinking was done: Throughout the interview I was fed certain words to rephrase my sentences in ways that the producer thought would spark more interest. Some words or phrases they asked me to say were beyond anything I would say on my own and I refused. However, they were clever in their questioning by getting me to respond to a vague question with a response that could be used as an answer to a completely different question. The prime example that was used on the show was towards the very beginning of Voodoo Sharks. The voice-over introduced my researchers and I as we were riding in a boat out looking for sharks on the edge of the Lake. They said, "They believe that if there is a monster shark entering Lake Pontchartrain it is likely sticking to this area..." and then it pans to a clip from my interview where they asked me, "Do you think there are large Bull Sharks in these bayous and swamps around Lake Pontchartrain?" so my response was to THAT question. They used my response to one question to make it sound like I believed in this monster shark 'Rooken' that they had just laid the groundwork for being real as a preface for the whole show.

Despite criticism for using this practice last year, Shark Week seems to have done the same thing again in 2014.

Kristine Stump, a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Shedd Aquarium, will be featured in the 2014 Shark Week documentary Monster Hammerhead.

The description for this documentary reads: Monster Hammerhead explores a legendary hammerhead shark that has been patrolling Florida's shores for the past 60 years. Now, a team of scientists and anglers look to explore the mystery and find out if the legend could be real.

First of all, great hammerhead sharks live a maximum of 44 years, so a large one could not have been patrolling Florida for 60 years. Also, this description is completely different from the documentary that Stump was told she'd be featured in. "The basic premise was a camera crew was dropping in on real scientists doing actual hammerhead research," Stump said. "We'd talk about the research goals and the challenges we face in trying to achieve those goals. Monster Hammerhead does not match the description of what we filmed."

Both Stump and Davis offer the same advice for scientists considering working with Shark Week: ask a lot of questions before agreeing to anything! "Had I known they would combine it with those ridiculous fishermen to make a show about a mythical shark I would have had some serious second thoughts about participating," Davis said.

But Stump feels that participating in Shark Week can still be worthwhile. "Whe we can't control the editing, we can control what we say on-camera," she said. "By being involved, I could have the opportunity to be a voice of real science amid an otherwise sensationalist line-up. If we want to make a difference in Shark Week, then be the difference."

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myselfdestruct 12th-Aug-2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
LOL of course they did. Not gonna lie, I love Shark Week.
deadendqueen16 12th-Aug-2014 06:45 pm (UTC)
I think this might have been posted already. It's a sham how Discovery Channel has turned into such a joke.
steph313 12th-Aug-2014 06:54 pm (UTC)
It's a shame all the educational networks are jokes now. History Channel is full of pawn shop garbagegarbage (with an occasional Hitler documentary thrown in there), TLC is trash reality, A&E is mostly Duck Dynasty marathons.

We need a Renaissance to rescue us from these dark ages of stupidity.
torture_tactics 12th-Aug-2014 06:58 pm (UTC)
I noticed this too. I was looking at a junk mail ad for Dish and all the regular cable stations are full of scripted, fake reality crap, where the REAL stuff those networks used to do has moved to the niche super-premium channels. Example, Food Network is now almost entirely Chopped and other fake competitive crap and most of the cooking is now on the offshot Cooking Channel, which is premium. Same thing happening to Discovery, History Channel, National Geographic, VH1, etc. The main networks are mostly low-budget reality shows and the original quality programming has been moved to the $$$$$ cable package. Kind of a bummer
milkradio 12th-Aug-2014 07:03 pm (UTC)
So true. I rely on Netflix and the DVD rental store now for thought-provoking documentary type shows or movies. Occasionally I find something interesting on PBS or CBC though; Frontline can be good and I always love The Nature of Things.
lovelylaura23 12th-Aug-2014 07:05 pm (UTC)
investigation discovery is where it's at, tbh.
neinfraulein 12th-Aug-2014 08:00 pm (UTC)
And Bravo was pure indie movies and the art of acting/film-making. ~*channel drift*~
phoenix_singing 12th-Aug-2014 08:03 pm (UTC)
And aliens. Don't forget the aliens.

It's disheartening. D:
leperheart 12th-Aug-2014 07:17 pm (UTC)
Travel Channel has turned into Food Network 2.0
catercousin 12th-Aug-2014 07:24 pm (UTC)
this was posted last night, still true though. i haven't watched shark week for the last two years bc a lot of it is just ridiculous (like most discovery channel for that matter), does Mike Rowe still host a lot of the shark week shows?
dior 12th-Aug-2014 07:30 pm (UTC)
it's so funny because when I was little, like 20 years ago, my dad would always try to get me to watch more educational programming - TLC, Discovery, History, etc - and now it's all garbage. He passed away 10 years ago so he didn't get to see it go to complete shit, but I laugh now when I watch the trash they show and think to myself, "here ya go dad! finally watching the channels you wanted me to!"
sihaya09 12th-Aug-2014 06:46 pm (UTC)
Been really bored with Shark Week so far. It's so clear that a lot of it has been made-up/manipulated bullshit.
goldengal1193 12th-Aug-2014 06:46 pm (UTC)
I don't get the fascination with Shark Week.

Then again, I do not like sharks......so there we go.
river1728 12th-Aug-2014 06:52 pm (UTC)
lol same. Just looking at the photo in the post made me want to pee my pants. Things living in water terrify me.
propera_parada 12th-Aug-2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
I'm scared of any creature of the deep (or shallow) ut I love watching documentaries on them. It's like horror movies to me.

But I hate documentaries with overly (or any) dramatic film music, flashing images, repetitive editing to make everything look more exciting. A documentary needs to be as neutral as possible or I don't gaf.

So I hate Shark Week as well. I'd rather watch BBC nature documentaries instead.
wowsolovely 12th-Aug-2014 06:57 pm (UTC)
shark week doesn't really care for sharks either
goldengal1193 12th-Aug-2014 07:01 pm (UTC)
oh damn
crucified 12th-Aug-2014 06:47 pm (UTC)
I still love Shark Week tbh. It sucks that they lie, but it's still fun.
myselfdestruct 12th-Aug-2014 06:48 pm (UTC)
Exactly. I know that shit ain't science but I still love to watch.
propera_parada 12th-Aug-2014 06:57 pm (UTC)
I understand that, but sadly, there are so many people not smart or educated enough to realise that. And then it becomes a huge problem.

For instance, I had to explain to a 22-year-old that magazine covers are photoshopped and that a vast majority of Hollywood actors have had work done. She didn't know.
lovelylaura23 12th-Aug-2014 06:47 pm (UTC)
I watched "Shark of Darkness: The Wrath of Submarine" and they put a disclaimer that it was purely for "entertainment purposes" an hour into the program. It honestly made me enjoy Shark Week a little less, tbh.
ljubavirakija 12th-Aug-2014 06:51 pm (UTC)
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lovelylaura23 12th-Aug-2014 06:56 pm (UTC)
LOL That was one of them!

But I swear there was another one smack in the middle of that said "entertainment purposes" cause I remember loling at it.
stellar_kar 12th-Aug-2014 08:06 pm (UTC)
bsfan 12th-Aug-2014 06:56 pm (UTC)
This is the one that got me. I Google'd Submarine Shark after watching and got a lot of articles about it being fake. I'm disappointed.

I like The Hammerhead one yesterday. It was nice learning about another type of shark.
propera_parada 12th-Aug-2014 07:02 pm (UTC)
lmao that reminds me of the time the French speaking side of Belgium aired a hypothetical documentary amidst a massive governmental crisis on what would happen if the north claimed independence. They only put a disclaimer somewhere in the corner that it was fiction more than half way through. Little old ladies were having heart-attacks, people were phoning the network in a panic. That was an entertaining week.
agentnever 12th-Aug-2014 06:48 pm (UTC)
I feel like I should just stay off of ONTD this week as someone with thalassophobia.
steph313 12th-Aug-2014 06:49 pm (UTC)
Shark Week was better before it became a "thing". Now it's a joke.

I just want documentaries on sharks; not bullshit about voodoo sharks.
ljubavirakija 12th-Aug-2014 06:51 pm (UTC)
NatGeoWild has some good doc's this week
sidsuicide 12th-Aug-2014 11:40 pm (UTC)
And they did the April Fool's day specials with Rifftrax! NatGeo will always be superior to me based on that alone!
impatiences 12th-Aug-2014 07:51 pm (UTC)
mte. i flipped to shark week last night, but when i kept wondering if the information was actually fact-based or not, i knew it was over. i just want to learn some real shit about sharks without watching the same 10-15 year old documentaries from Nat Geo.
river1728 12th-Aug-2014 06:50 pm (UTC)
OMG that photo is terrifying.
Honestly, I'm not surprised they would do this. I kind of feel like this is common practices with some documentaries.
propera_parada 12th-Aug-2014 07:04 pm (UTC)
It really shouldn't be though. They're documentaries. It's sad that as a species we manage to fuck up basically anything we start.
river1728 12th-Aug-2014 07:47 pm (UTC)
I agree. Like what's the point of making a documentary if it isn't about the truth?
somnus_angel 12th-Aug-2014 06:51 pm (UTC)
I never really cared much about Shark Week but my sister felt so betrayed when she found out that the story about Submarine was fake lol.
lovelylaura23 12th-Aug-2014 06:56 pm (UTC)
I was too, tbh. :(
ljubavirakija 12th-Aug-2014 07:06 pm (UTC)
I don't understand how people could think it was real. The footage was so over-the-top. Not to mention, the CGI was atrocious. You could tell that shark fin was fake.
cheapxdate 12th-Aug-2014 07:10 pm (UTC)
LOL I'm watching it right now and while I'm hella entertained I'm like yeahhh, this supposed footage doesnt look real AT ALL. Not too mention some of the sonar stuff that they ~didn't notice~ until learning about Submarine and taking a ~closer~ look.
lovelylaura23 12th-Aug-2014 07:18 pm (UTC)
the sonar part is what made me realize it was fake. Like, how do you not see this shit?!?! It's supposedly a mammoth sized shark and you didn't see it?!?!
harleenfrances 13th-Aug-2014 01:44 am (UTC)
my dad did too lmao. he was super let down.
bluemeanie_1 12th-Aug-2014 06:54 pm (UTC)
I haven't watched Shark Week much recently, but I thought it used to being more informational back in the early 2000s.
areusuretho 12th-Aug-2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the older documentaries are a lot more interesting and I think a lot of them are still on Netflix!
areusuretho 12th-Aug-2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
I don't even care. I love sharks. They're such badass, weird creatures. Discovery can fabricate all they want, but I'll still be entertained at the sight of a shark chomping on a Thanksgiving ham.
sharktoothdecay 12th-Aug-2014 06:56 pm (UTC)
what the fuck happened to all of the credible channels
preparatory 12th-Aug-2014 07:00 pm (UTC)
social media
zyuranger 12th-Aug-2014 07:28 pm (UTC)
Reality shows became more bizarre.
satellite__eyes 12th-Aug-2014 06:57 pm (UTC)
Discovery has shit all over the original concept of Shark Week. The popularization didn't help, it hurt it immensely. These sensationalized shows are garbage and I stopped watched a couple years ago because of them.
sharktoothdecay close encounter12th-Aug-2014 07:01 pm (UTC)
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