Student Media Watchdog Association

Aflockalypse Now?

In Uncategorized on March 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm

By Kelsey Heckert

Paying attention to the news more since we started The Leash a mere few months ago, I’ve been using a self-constructed filter to determine what exactly is newsworthy. Although the news has been particularly filled with recent current events like the multiple revolutions happening in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Tunisia, what happens when the world quiets down and Charlie Sheen finds work again? What kinds of news stories get the focus?

For example, back in the summer of 2001, shark attacks were one of the main focuses in the media. News organizations did not have a lot of options when it came to extensive coverage, so they picked shark attacks out of the hat. Although the media focused on the attacks, there had been no increase in mortality rates for that year. Guess they just needed something to cover.

Recently, I have a hunch that I have identified a similar trend—this topic is over-exploited and every media outlet covers a part of it. I am talking specifically about “Aflockalypse,” also known as the phenomenon of the recent mass animal deaths, particularly referring to the Arkansas blackbird incident.

Many of the major newspapers in the United States have jokingly suggested that 2012 really is the end of the world based on predictions made by the Mayans many years ago. Apparently I am going to be the fuddy-duddy and respond to their claims. There are records of other unusual mass animal deaths that have occurred outside the first couple months of 2011. Time magazine offers a list of the top ten strangest animal deaths, where there is only one Aflockalypse in 2011 listed, which can be seen as both a justification for the 2012 hype and an indication that the world really is coming to an end.

Regardless, Aflockalypse has convinced the United States that animals are dying left, right, and center. An anonymous user has even created a way to track the recent animal deaths since December 2010, making it seem like the world has never seen anything like it.  On a New York radio program, Scott Wright, the Branch Chief of Disease Investigations at the USGS Wildlife Health Center, notes that mass animal deaths are more common then one might think and that they happen pretty regularly. Whoever is in control of the Google Maps feature has also lost interest in the Aflockalypse craze: “Created January 5—Last Updated January 5.”

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Not buying this claim? Yes, I’m being harsh on what the news determines to be newsworthy material; however, there is evidence that can be used as support. First, when is the last time that you heard about a mass animal death? Technically, there was an estimated one million sardines that turned up dead in San Francisco on Tuesday, March 8. One more? On Saturday, March 4, a Mexican zoo had to euthanize 115 birds that were infected with avian flu. Another? Back in October 2010, several thousand wildebeest bodies were discovered in Africa on the side of a major river—it is presumed that they drowned due to the currents.

This also comes from an individual who actively looks through news articles, sometimes going into the depth of popular news websites to see if the media is not highlighting important events. All I can say is, I think the media is right to shift the spotlight off the Aflockalypse.

Photo Credit: http://rlv.zcache.com/aflockalypse_postcard-p239976077017967079trdg_400.jpg

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