News happens

Last month, California condors made the national news in a bizarre and erroneous way. Here’s a brief report.

Vulture restaurants are exactly what they sound like. They are a long-established method of providing suitable food for vultures. Stillborn livestock donated by farms are a common menu item.

The Ventana Wildlife Society has a camera at a restaurant it operates for California condors in central California’s coastal mountains. Recently, a fine-looking black bear was spotted taking advantage of the “condor food”. The bear sighting was newsworthy because bears are not common in the area.

I saw an accurate, 300+ word story about the bear sighting on the websites of the Modesto Bee, Sacramento Bee, and San Luis Obispo Tribune, all part of the McClatchy newspaper chain. The website geek.com also posted an accurate story.

The Fox television network picked up the story and their 50-words of text were accurate, as was the narration on the accompanying video. However, the Fox headline was: “Rare sighting of black bear eating condor in Big Sur”.

The websites of Fox television stations in Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Tampa and other cities all published the story (I do not know how many of these stations broadcast the story on television).

I have struggled to imagine what readers and viewers made of Fox’s version of the story. At a minimum, it is unfortunate that an opportunity was lost to share accurate news about California condors and black bears with a nation-wide audience.

For other examples of misinformation about the California condor, click on the Misinformation button in the list of topics (somewhere on this screen; the location depends on your device).