Security Awareness Blog

Shark Attack!!! - Why is This Frontpage News?

One of the things I've covered in the past is how bad we as people are at judging risk, we overestimate risk for events that are very visual and when we are not in control. This is why so many people fear flying, when in reality that is the safest way to get from point A to point B. News / media only tend to reinforce these misconceptions of risk.

On the front page of CNN today is the story of a surfer attacked by a shark and almost killed. Why was this covered? Because it is a unique event that rarely happens, maybe one to two people a year get killed by sharks. Yet as a result of this being on the front page people fear sharks. Now how many news articles did you read about people getting killed in automotive accidents? Probably no such articles. Why? Because it happens every single day, in fact 70-100 people a day die in the United States due to automotive accidents. As such by definition it is not news.

In many ways, the news is the worst place to judge risk. If you see it on the news, that often means it is one of the lowest risks you need to be concerned about.