Hype is a strange beast. It’s been five media-saturated days since the Cincinnati Zoo shot and killed a gorilla after a 3-year-old boy fell into its enclosure. This morning, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that police won’t recommend criminal charges against the child’s parents, who are already being sentenced to a lifetime of shame by distressed animal-rights activists and social-media mobs. So when does the story cool down?
The answer is anyone’s guess. But some in the news media have been sure to harvest every possible controversial opinion, click, and social share from the story of Harambe, who belonged to an endangered species. Perhaps the attempt to milk this tragedy is most glaring not in what journalists are writing, but whom they’re writing about.
From a prominent creationist to (duh) Donald Trump, here’s a roundup of some of the most absurd sources tapped on the Harambe beat. Like similar hot-button issues, this incident has wrought a busy–and low-brow–week at the #content factory.
1) Mike Francesa, New York sports talk radio host
— SI Extra Mustard (@SI_ExtraMustard) May 31, 2016
Both Sports Illustrated and the New York Post reported Francesa’s rant on the need to protect the trapped child. What’s more, the blog SportsGrid documented a similar spiel from Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, who used to co-host a show with Francesa on New York’s WFAN radio station.
2) Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and contender for the 2012 Republican presidential candidacy
Finally the opinion I was waiting on to make a decision about the gorilla story https://t.co/lafDl18A4b
— mayormac (@mayormac) June 2, 2016
Gingrich may consider himself quite the zoo lover (he’s reportedly been to more than 100), but he’s hardly the go-to voice for this story. Liking animals is radically different than caring for them. Even so, Business Insider deemed him worthy to weigh in on whether the zoo made the right move.
3) John Key, New Zealand’s prime minister
— Scout (@ScoutNewsNZ) June 2, 2016
Several news outlets from New Zealand pumped out pieces on their prime minister’s disapproval of the killing. While you’re unlikely to find a more disconnected source, Key’s comments allowed him and Kiwi news outlets to capitalize on the hype.
4) Shaunie O’Neal, executive producer of VH1’s Basketball Wives
Shaunie O'Neal — Mom's Gotta Keep Kids Closer, But Cincinnati Zoo Messed Up Too (VIDEO) https://t.co/g7BlIEDyYg
— TMZ (@TMZ) June 1, 2016
O’Neal has kids, and she runs shows about people with kids. Experience with gorilla attacks? Not much.
5) Ken Ham, prominent creationist
— Heidi Harris (@HeidiHarrisShow) June 1, 2016
The digital native Opposing Views couldn’t help itself when Ham, the guy who runs the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, fired off a Bible-infused blog post on Harambe’s death. At least he’s building an ark.
6) Hollywood in general
— People Magazine (@people) May 31, 2016
No surprise here: Celebrities–animal-rights activists and armchair commentators alike–took to Twitter to speak out against the Cincinnati Zoo, and entertainment reporters across the land saw a well of clickable copy.
7) Donald Trump
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 1, 2016
Who didn’t report The Donald’s take? We can chalk this one up to 2016 being an election year. Yet it’s difficult to find reactions to Harambe’s death from the less-inflammatory, Democratic hopefuls.
8) Benjamin Watson, NFL player
NFL Star Ben Watson Says Cincinnati Zoo Was Right to Kill Gorilla Harambe: NFL star Benjamin Watson believes … https://t.co/GLRPDpryPI
— Republic Review (@RepublicReview) May 31, 2016
Several Christian websites were quick to pen stories on Benjamin Watson, a tight end for the Baltimore Ravens, and his belief that the zoo was right to kill the gorilla. The Christian press apparently believes Watson’s religious convictions qualify him to discuss the actions of zookeepers.
9) Rush Limbaugh, conservative talk radio host
— Ana Kasparian (@AnaKasparian) June 2, 2016
Why does anyone–especially GQ–care what Limbaugh thinks about gorillas, or, for that matter, anything at all? Sure, using this moment to bash Darwin is outrageous, but it’s just more of the same from ol’ Rush.
Some journalists may argue they’re simply reporting reactions from high-profile people. If we don’t cover it, who will? But there’s a better muster test for this kind of quick-hit journalism: Who cares?