WaPoo, ‘Shark Week’ lacks diversity, overrepresents men named Mike, scientists say, "Researchers say Discovery’s programming overwhelmingly featured White men as experts while emphasizing negative messages about sharks"
Lisa Whitenack loved sharks as a kid. She spent rainy days leafing through a guide to sharks in Reader’s Digest. Every summer, she would watch “Shark Week,” Discovery’s annual TV event that spotlights the ocean predator with seven days of dedicated programming.
But when the scientists appeared on her TV screen, she rarely saw any women she could look up to.
“Why would I know I could do that?” Whitenack said. “I don’t come from a family of scientists. I didn’t see very many people that looked like me on television.”
Whitenack, now a biology professor at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., found her way into shark research anyway. When the pandemic lockdowns came in 2020, she saw an opportunity to study the source of her old misconceptions. Was “Shark Week” feeding audiences the wrong messages about sharks — and who studies them?
Whitenack led a team of researchers to examine hundreds of “Shark Week” episodes that aired between 1988 and 2020. In a study published last month by the Public Library of Science, their research claims that Discovery’s programming emphasized negative messages about sharks, lacked useful messaging about shark conservation and overwhelmingly featured White men as experts — including several with the same name.
The programming featured more White experts and commentators named “Mike” than women, said David Shiffman, a conservationist at Arizona State University who was a co-author of the study.
“When there are hundreds of people of color interested who work in this field, [and] when my field is more than half women, maybe it’s not an accident anymore that they’re only featuring White men,” Shiffman said.Freediver Steph who seems to have a thing for Tiger Sharks, considered the second most dangerous sharks to man after the Great White. I would encourage her to get her own show. I'd watch.
Discovery did not respond to a request for comment on the study’s findings. The company told NBC Boston that it wouldn’t comment on a study “that has yet to pass any scientific approvals” after a preliminary version was presented 2021. It has since undergone a scientific review, Whitenack said.
My experience in the marine sciences is they are now a predominantly female occupation, especially at the lower levels, and will become entirely entirely dominated with the retirement of the boomer generation. As the racial diversity, my experience suggests that racial minorities are underrepresented in the sciences because of the realization by those minorities willing to put in the time and trouble to get the education, there are more remunerative and secure places to spend a career.
Now, why are the TV programs overwhelmingly crewed by men? I might have to do with men being more willing to take a chance to pursue an outside opportunity?