Even the sharks are on vacation
© St. Petersburg Times,
This just in: There are SHARKS in the Gulf of Mexico!!!
And that's not all: Alligators have been sighted in Florida's lakes and canals, not to mention the occasional driveway!!! And those mosquitoes in your backyard may be carrying the West Nile virus!!! And Chantal, sputtering around in the Caribbean, shows signs of strengthening into a hurri -- no, WAIT!!! . . . Never mind. She fizzled out entirely.
But she might strengthen again. And there's another tropical depression headed west RIGHT BEHIND HER!!!!
The dog days of August always create a dilemma for the national news media. There's usually not much real news to report, because almost nobody is working. Congress has adjourned, and President Bush is spending most of the month at his ranch, luxuriating in the subtle pleasures of rural Texas in mid-summer (and showing just how uncomfortable he's willing to make himself to remind everybody that he's not really from Washington, D.C., or Kennebunkport.)
Most of the media bigfeet are on vacation, too. Channel 8's Bob Hite complained on-air a few weeks ago that NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw seemed to be taking the entire summer off. We thought he was kidding, but he wasn't. Brokaw has been out of sight so long that authorities may want to question Rep. Gary Condit about his disappearance.
But there's still air time to fill. So we get overblown stories such as last week's breathless reports that sharks had been discovered congregating off Anclote Key.
Veteran Floridians must have thought the national media had lost their collective minds. They know sharks are trolling along the Gulf Coast all the time. And they know there's a slight chance -- roughly comparable to the odds of being swallowed alive by a Hernando County sinkhole -- that a shark will attack an unwary human in shallow water. A couple of recent tragedies have focused attention on that risk, but last week's national news stories only raised irrational fears.
Honesty compels us to admit that we Florida newspapers aren't entirely immune to the urge to hype stories on a sleepy August day. Everybody loves a good shark photo, or a story about a wayward manatee. And how about that adorable little lost kitten miraculously returned to her owner?
We all should be thankful for days that are slow enough to force the national media to go hunting for non-news to hype. Real news will return soon enough, and we'll all miss the days when we had nothing better to worry about than those camera-hog sharks gliding ominously past Anclote Key.
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