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Styf: The shark story is not real

Published: Friday, March 31, 2017 3:26 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 3, 2017 6:44 a.m. CDT
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(Schalk van Zuydam)
In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, a great white shark swims past researchers as they chum the ocean looking for sharks in the waters off Gansbaai, South Africa. Extensive research by shark expert Michael Rutzen and his marine biologist partner Sara Andreotti has found that great whites off the South African coast are rapidly heading for extinction. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
Caption
Jon Styf

On Thursday morning, I got a phone call in my office.

Had I heard about the great whites in Morris? Were they real?

The caller, purporting to be a zoology professor interested in a research trip with students, wanted to know what we knew.

"Can you say that again? Are you talking about sharks?" I asked.

"Yes," was the response.

So I searched Twitter and Google and found the source.

It was a post, on a "Prank Your Friends Now!" website that apparently a lot of people have shared.

As reporter Heidi Litchfield wrote in January, be careful what you're sharing on social media. Much of the stuff you see that shocks you isn't real.

I called back and left a message to tell the caller as much.

When I reached Heidi, she already knew about it and had been tagged in posts about it several times a day before. She wasn't the only one in the newsroom who had.

The photo used on the post was actually used on a different post, claiming a shark sighting in the Mississippi River, in October. Snopes debunked it then.

I'm not going to share the fake post here, that would be contradictory.

But since we received a message on our Facebook page regarding it Friday, it's clear that some are unclear on the reality here.

So you know, someone posted the same story with the same photo on that same site regarding St. Louis on Friday.

While I've lived in climates and areas where sharks are very real, and will see more when I visit the Shedd Aquarium this weekend, there is zero threat of sharks naturally ending up in the freshwater here. Or surviving even if someone dumped one in a river here (how the heck and why would you do that with a "great white?").

While there are some mighty big muskies and flathead catfish in Illinois rivers, there are not Great White sharks.

While I have no idea if it was a real professor calling me, or someone trying to prank us too, it's clear that the sharks are not real.

So please stop sharing it.

• Morris Herald-News Editor Jon Styf can be reached at jstyf@shawmedia.com, on Twitter @JonStyf or at 815-280-4119. Styf also is editor of The Herald-News, Herald Life and is an editor with Pro Football Weekly.

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