Bear photo at CU-Boulder: Copyright complaint as shot becomes meme, GIF fave

Categories: Media, News

Original item, 7:06 a.m. April 27: Yesterday morning, a bear that had clambered into a tree near the Williams Village dorms on the CU-Boulder campus was safely tranquilized and taken away by Colorado Parks and Wildlife personnel. An interesting story, sure, but not one that immediately seems of international interest. But a photo by Andy Duann, a staff photographer for the CU Independent, the campus news website, changed that equation in a huge way.

Here's the full-size shot:

bear photo andy duann cu independent.jpg
Andy Duann/CU Independent
It's raining bears.
According to Gil Asakawa, a former Westword writer who's now the Independent's adviser, the photo began to take off online around midday, and within four hours or so, it had become a Facebook and Twitter smash, as well as winding up on Gawker, Reddit, Yahoo and more traditional news platforms such as CBS4, 7News, Fox 31, the Boulder Daily Camera and the Denver Post.

Here are some random stats Asakawa provided via e-mail just shy of five p.m.:

• 1,607 "likes" on the photo/article
• 1,306 "shares"
• 340 comments
• Over 100 new Facebook followers
• 1,579 "Karma" on Reddit
• 10,069 current pageviews to the CU Independent

To provide some context for this last figure, Asakawa reveals that the Independent's 4/20 coverage generated 4,700 pageviews.

The surge of traffic eventually crashed the Independent's site; Asakawa speculates that the host company's servers were overloaded. But that didn't slow the speed with which the shot traveled across the web. As of 8:30 p.m. last night, Asakawa points out that the photo was being featured by the Toronto Star and NineMSN in Australia, not to mention the San Francisco Chronicle and other sites that didn't contact Independent but gave credit for the pic.

"We've smashed our previous traffic records, set last week leading up to 4/20, to little shiny bits and bytes," Asakawa notes -- and all because Duann "was in the proverbial right place and right time."

And that's all it takes to become an Internet sensation.

Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.

More from our Media archive: "Video: Kolbi Zerbest stars in hard-hitting Today investigation of CU-Boulder Obama yogurt spill."

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