Best Of 2006

Most Hyped Media Story: Alligators Attack

When the panicked headlines declaring an alligator epidemic hit every Tampa Bay media outlet this spring, you may have gotten déjà vu all over again. The barrage of stories detailing how to avoid attacks, the disturbing photos, the TV stations camped on the banks looking for a glimpse of a sharp-toothed monster — didn’t we see this kind of overblown crisis before? Oh yeah, in summer 2001 when two fatal shark attacks held the state and nation hostage. The truth is alligator attacks, like shark attacks, are extremely rare. Only 20 people have died in alligator attacks since 1948, and most of those could have been avoided by taking a few common-sense precautions: Don’t swim where alligators live (which is any wild body of fresh water); don’t ingest illegal drugs while lying beside said water, and don’t feed or taunt the gators. What will be next year’s craze — rabid manatees?