Cusack lashes out at sensationalist treatment of shark story

METROPOLITAN media coverage of sharks on the Northern Rivers coastline has been a "bloody disaster" Lennox Head-based State MP Catherine Cusack says.

In a letter to The Northern Star, Ms Cusack lashes out at Sydney's Daily Telegraph, accusing it of sensationalising the issue in a way that could damage the region's tourism economy.

The front page of Sydney's Daily Telegraph, September 30, 2015
The front page of Sydney's Daily Telegraph, September 30, 2015

"The full page photo of a shark on the front page of the Telegraph today features one word highlighted in red - unfortunately it's 'Ballina'," Ms Cusack says.

"This front page can only be described as a bloody disaster for our visitor economy and that hurts everyone.

"The photo lacks explanation as to how far out the shark was, and it's completely lacking perspective because all it tells us is there are sharks in the ocean."

Ms Cusack says she believes locals and visitors should be kept informed on the issue and steps should be taken to protect them.

"But what is going on is sensationalised," she says.

"Statements like 'now I know how the Mayor in Jaws felt' are guaranteed international media coverage and that is not a proper, thought through message - indeed it's one of the most unhelpful things that could be said along with release of photos to the media that may not be reported in their full context."

Ms Cusack's comment refers to a partial quote published by the Telegraph's sister paper, The Australian, and republished in other media, in which Ballina Mayor David Wright said he was "starting to feel like the mayor in the Jaws movie".

"There are sharks up and down the coast - Port Stephens is teaming with sharks but do you hear them carrying on like this?" Ms Cusack says in her letter.

"Please have a thought for the local community.

"Instead of feeding a media frenzy, I again call on our local councils to show leadership and produce a holistic strategy and an experienced spokesperson for the North Coast who can both inform and reassure our visitor markets their welfare is always our first concern."

* Part of Ms Cusack's letter refers to a local company. The full letter will be published once that company has been given an opportunity to respond to her comments.

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