Training the bears

A lot of news organizations in Montana and around the Yellowstone region struck viral gold today thanks to an image posted to Reddit showing a comment card for a Xanterra hotel.

The card, posted here, says that the departing guest’s visit was wonderful but “we never saw any bears. Please train your bears to be where guests can see them.”

No name, date, time or room number was added to the Xanterra comment card.

In the Reddit posting, the original poster, user the_midgetaur, says it’s from a friend who works at Yellowstone, and the card was left at the front desk “this morning.”

The posting had more than 2,200 comments. The words “fake” and “doubt” never appear.

I called Yellowstone National Park’s press office on Wednesday. A park spokeswoman — who had seen the online posting already — verified that that’s what the Xanterra comment cards really look like. However, she could not verify its authenticity.

I also left a voicemail for Xanterra’s public relations firm and haven’t heard back yet.

In all, it’s the perfect “Montana” posting. It highlights the naiveté of tourists, the outsiders and non-locals that many in Montana like to poke fun at online to stoke our superiority complex — as many did earlier this summer when Yellowstone had a rash of bison gorings thanks to the phenomenon of the #bisonselfie. The photo is also anonymous. No names, no identifying clues. No one’s feelings get hurt.

In other words, it’s the perfect social media construct, and as such, I am loathe to believe in it without confirmation.

Perhaps I should believe the OP on Reddit and take their claim at face value. Perhaps Xanterra will confirm to me that it’s legit. But until one of those things happens, I have to believe it’s faked.

And unless the Park told the Lee newspapers and other media sites in the region something different than they told me, that means those sites posted an unverified photo for maximum social media effect and not for news value.