Is Something Fishy?

by Roger Pynn

I haven’t watched the documentary “Blackfish” about killer whales (Orcas) kept in captivity in marine parks like SeaWorld.  I’m not sure how it would affect me because although I love the SeaWorld parks, I’ve never been a big fan of zoos where animals are held in captivity and I’m beginning to see pools more like cages the more I think about it.

Regardless the film’s message or where you stand on the ethical treatment of animals, you might want to ask yourself whether there’s something fishy about it becoming a CNN Film … given all the reporting and commentary on the “news” network.

CNN announced the creation of CNN Films a year ago, saying it would acquire and commission feature-length documentaries.  By their nature, documentaries draw – or lead to – conclusions … much like an editorial page.  But often they are produced with such dramatic flair as to border on docutainment.

What do you think?  Does CNN belong in this space?  Since this film had already become a huge story, was it right for CNN to acquire and begin rebroadcasting it … positioning it as a “premiere”?

3 Responses to Is Something Fishy?

  1. Emma Claire says:

    I think that it was right for CNN to rebroadcast it, because the director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, gave them permission, and all she wants is publicity for her film. By CNN rebroadcasting Blackfish, it gained many new followers and supporters. The film already had followers, but those followers were activists and people already fans of it’s partner movie, The Cove. CNN helped the documentary gain new, different supporters who might not have paid to see it in a theater or buy it. Yes, CNN is a sketchy news program that doesn’t always give you all the facts, but this movie was not made by them, and is trustworthy in my opinion. I have seen the movie and can’t find many faults with it at all. Yes, it does have a fair amount of drama for entertainment and suspense purposes, but I found it was very much a documentary. I would suggest watching it and deciding for yourself what you think of it. If nothing else, Blackfish is entertaining. I would love to hear what you think about the film.

  2. Ryan Sheehy says:

    Roger, as a former SeaWorld employee, I commented on this a couple months back on Facebook. The dialogue we shared created a healthy discussion. My comments below are particularly noteworthy in relation to your post today.

    This was shared on Oct. 26 at 1 p.m.

    First and foremost, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and I will always honor and respect those who strive to have a better understanding of ANY subject matter.

    As a Mass Communication educator, my issue is the media portrayal, consumption and short-sidedness of those I’ve studied across popular social platforms.

    As you know, I’ve spent most of my career working with journalists. And I support the role of journalists in a democratic society. One of their primary purposes is to create a more informed public. It’s their job to empower us with information to help us form our own opinions.

    In modern times, journalists have the opportunity to engage readers, viewers, listeners in real time. This presents an opportunity, one of which is to drive ratings, which in turn drives dollars. The media industry is a “business,” too.

    One of the greatest challenges is rooted in ethics. Read up on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

    When you’re a “professional” who builds a career working in a particular sector (be it journalism and public relations, or law, accounting, medicine), you’re expected to uphold best practices and standards.

    I could provide a counterpoint for every negative comment I’ve read about this situation. There will always be a debate about the idea of “animals in captivity.” And I do believe it’s good to engage in an honest, healthy, productive dialogue.

    What disgusts me is how narrow-minded and media-hungry individuals are today. And with the use of social platforms they somehow believe shouting and blasting a message to the masses is going to change public opinion, or better yet, foster behavior change.

    If you don’t know the complexity of working with live animals, understand firsthand the what, why and how of these issues, then how can you watch one movie, and suddenly be a professed expert?

    (and I went on to share in a later post)

    Steven, as the article you just posted mentions, SeaWorld has been dedicated to continual improvement of the care of its animals, and the safety of its employees. I’m pretty certain they’d never give up on the mission for which is was founded.

    Go back to your/my comments about media.

    Until we see dramatic changes to provide more balanced news coverage, we perpetuate an ill-informed and apathetic public, driven by sensationalized storytelling.

    Emma, I suggest you read this to get a clearer picture of the “truths” in the film. It’s actually quite telling.

  3. Kristy says:

    I assume that CNN thought that Blackfish was a documentary. If it truly was a documentary, there would be no problem, as all details should be factual and non-biased. But, because Blackfish was not a documentary, this was definitely not OK. What is happening to SeaWorld now, because of it, is very unfortunate.

    Read SeaWorld’s response here:

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