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The portrayal of human-wildlife interactions in the print media

Lunney, D. and Moon, C. (2008) The portrayal of human-wildlife interactions in the print media. In: Lunney, D., Munn, A. and Meikle, W., (eds.) Too close for comfort : contentious issues in human-wildlife encounters. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, NSW, pp. 52-64.

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In the end Steve Irwin got too close" (Sydney Morning Herald 5/9 /06). Steve Irwin's untimely death generated an instantaneous and massive response by the media. The cause of his death - a stingray barb - highlights a vital part of the topic of how close we should be to wildlife for our own safety, and for the welfare of the wildlife. As working zoologists, we asked: "To what extent does the media's portrayal of human-wildlife interaction define or obscure the contentious issues in wildlife management?" We examined 287 newspaper articles over one year (7/10/05 to 9/10/06).The journalism was, by and large, informative, readable and entertaining. The usual pattern of reporting was a catchy headline, short story and/or a sensational photo. There is a paradox in our relationship with wildlife - we want to be both close and distant Media coverage reflects this, presenting wildlife as either dangerous or loveable, depending on the reporter's 'angle'. Safeguarding the future of our wildlife will need much more than a headline with a pun and an engaging photo of a charismatic creature. In its presentation of wildlife, the media plays a powerful role that will either further its conservation or leave it as a neglected element of our heritage. From our analysis, we argue that scientists and the media can be more profitably engaged, but ultimately the conservation of our fauna will depend on well-supported and diverse teams of scientists and wildlife managers that operate on sound ecological principles, not media precepts.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
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