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Op-Ed: Blackfish highest rated film on CNN this year, dominates Twitter

By Elizabeth Batt     Oct 26, 2013 in Entertainment
SeaWorld perhaps believed it was the film that nobody would ever watch. Yet the premiere of Blackfish on CNN topped both Fox News and MSNBC from 9-11 PM in both the key news demo and younger viewers.
According to CNN, Blackfish was the highest ranking CNN Film this Year and the second most mentioned cable program on Twitter when it premiered on the network last Thursday.
CNN promoted the film strongly throughout the day hosting a series of interviews with Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, marine mammal scientists such as Dr. Naomi Rose and associate producer of Blackfish: Tim Zimmermann.
SeaWorld meanwhile, fronted no "official" representative to argue its case, although known pro-captive industry reps such as Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and Gray Stafford who began his zoological career as a marine mammal trainer at SeaWorld of Ohio, did attempt to intercede on behalf of the giant marine park corporation.
Also at hand during the CNN debate — post premiere on Anderson Cooper, was Billy Hurley. Presented as a marine mammal expert, his other credentials as Chief Animal Officer and Senior Vice President of Husbandry at Georgia Aquarium remained hidden, as did the revelation that Georgia Aquarium is currently seeking to import 18 wild-caught belugas from Russia.
Polls say no to captivity
Amid live CNN polls that asked, "should killer whales be held in captivity?" [90% no]. And, "would you take your kids to SeaWorld?" [86% no], Hanna, who once compared SeaWorld trainers to astronauts, appeared to like the sound of his own voice rather than the facts. He may also have spoken a little too freely when he declared that he was "not a whale expert ... he only knows what he sees," because he instantly lost any credibility and people tweeted their disgust.
As the Blackfish buzz continues — it sold out for its premiere at the film festival in Abu Dhabi this weekend and CNN will re-air the film today at 9pm EST, SeaWorld retains it reticence, aside from the occasional potshot from insider peeps.
One of the strangest came courtesy of Jason Kelly, who slammed CNN for broadcasting Blackfish calling it a "breach of ethics." Kelly wrote:
Journalists are ethically obligated to seek truth and report it, to minimize harm, to act independently and to be accountable. With its distortion of facts, its use of undercover footage, its failure to disclose conflicts of interest and its pandering to lurid curiosity, the film violates each of the four tenants that constitutes journalism’s ethics code.
To his credit, Kelly is transparent in the fact that "he spent two and a half years at SeaWorld Orlando as a killer-whale behavioral research intern, conservation educator and VIP tour guide," but he can hardly claim impartiality. And while he encourages a "healthy national conversation," that must be "constructive" and contain "reasoned dialogue," for that to happen, SeaWorld must step up and take part.
SeaWorld's silence remains deafening however. All would welcome an "expert" debate on the issues. Yet the giant marine park which Newt Gingrich said on Crossfire was "a multi-billion-dollar institution," that owed "the country some level of transparency and some level of accountability," continued to ignore all requests from CNN to present their point of view; just as they declined repeated requests from Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite to present their case in the documentary.
As I have said before, you can't close the gate after the orca has already bolted.
Did you watch Blackfish? Let us know what you think.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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