The deadliest catch teaches us everything we need to know about life

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About 10 years ago my extended family rented a cabin in New Hampshire for a week for swimming, barbecuing, relaxing, and a terrible bear encounter. Halfway through the trip, I got an ear infection and retired to the bedroom I shared with my younger cousins, which is what happens when you’re single in your mid-20s. (I found out later that it also happened in my mid-30s.)

There, in the lower bunk, I lit my laptop and started watching what had become (and will be) my favorite reality TV show of all time. After about a day on antibiotics, I recovered from my convalescence, and when I went into the kitchen my mother glanced at me.

“Are you all right?” she asked with narrowed eyes. My ear felt better, I told her, but the expression on her face didn’t change. When my mother left the room, my cousin turned to me. “She doesn’t worry about your ear,” she said. “She worries because you look so much Deadliest catch. ”


Since 2005 the Emmy has been awarded Deadliest catch was a cornerstone of programming for the Discovery Channel, which traces a fleet of Alaskan fishermen through the Opilio, King, and Bairidi crab seasons in the Bering Sea. It has been through four presidential administrations, two American-led wars, the deaths of crew members and Captain Phil Harris, revisions to U.S. fisheries regulations, and a global pandemic that was the focus of the story that ended September 21.

His formula has remained the same for 17 seasons: sometimes the boats are on the crab, sometimes not. In between there are interpersonal tensions, mechanical failures, almost fatal injuries, dramatic rescue operations by the coast guard and at least one pictorial cut of boils.

To some this may seem too formulaic, but they are wrong. After watching all 155 episodes, I realized that what some call a formula is a meditation on life’s greatest challenges. Would you like to get in shape? Lift and throw heavy lines (strength), run across the deck in short bursts (cardio) and sort crabs (calisthenics). Do you need to make money? Do your research, assemble the best team you can, and hurry up. Fall in love? Keep an eye on the horizon and enjoy the waves.

At about the same time as this trip to New Hampshire, I began my journalist career, mainly working in daily digital newsrooms. I’ve found the show is the best metaphor for my work too and when people ask what I’m doing I usually reply: Deadliest catch? ”

When you work in the digital space, it can be difficult to explain exactly what you do all day. In today’s world, “success” in journalism is so much determined by metrics, and the perfect story is one that is well reported, timely, beautifully written, and so interesting that readers can’t help but click on it. Consider each boat’s quota, also known as the amount of crabs each crew received for a given season. In digital journalism, that’s your traffic goal.

Veteran captains talk about their “honey holes,” the carefully plotted points in the Bering Sea that year after year have delivered crabs. In digital journalism, honey holes are long-running, stories that keep our readers interested. When something doesn’t work, like with crabs, we have to rethink our strategy and find the holes in the nets. We look at the data and see what our competitors are doing, but ultimately we have to trust our courage. Most of the time, it’s a daily routine that constantly tests you, but which we eventually return to because just like they love crabs, we love storytelling.

And then there are days when the captain sits on the crab and every single pot that comes out of the water is stuffed full. In journalism, there are days when every single story is a wild hit, causing analytics to skyrocket and editors to breathe easier (at least for today). These are the days we live for, the days when you will be reminded that pots of gold are real and worth the effort.

At its worst, the show is a metaphor for modern life where we are constantly looking for a solution, be it through social media or story numbers or crab dragging. So many of the crew on the show have battled the addiction, including longtime actor Nick McGlashan, who died of a drug overdose in December 2020 in the middle of filming last season. This extreme behavior has also affected people outside of the show, most notably former Northwestern deck boss Edgar Hansen, who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 16-year-old in 2018. (He was banned from the show, though there are several Reddit. Threads of conspiracy that believe he still occasionally appears in wide-angle shots.)

Likewise, the trope of the gray, tenacious journalist, a stereotype fueled by real journalists like Pete Hamill, Molly Ivins, and Jimmy Breslin, is inevitable. There is a parallel between being addicted and the thrill of catching – whatever that catch may be.

At its best, Deadliest catch is a meditation, a reminder to find meaning in monotony. If you notice the rogue wave coming, move the boat to port or starboard to minimize the impact. If a storm is brewing, either go to the safety of the harbor or put on your rain gear and set off. Enjoy the smooth sailing when it arrives because it won’t last forever. Take in the beauty even when it is dark. Sometimes things go our way and sometimes they don’t, but the point is to adjust.

And always keep your feet on the deck.




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