Dog Bites Anchor

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But MSNBC fails to suppress video footage

Do media have a double standard, when it comes to covering themselves?

That is, do they treat a story differently, because they are at the centre of it?

That’s a tricky one to answer. When a media outlet wins awards, you can expect them to honk their horn loudly – and the competition to roundly ignore it. 

But I’m thinking about controversial stories here; the kind a media outlet would prefer just went away. This one is hard to pin down, and I think the media handle such delicate situations fairly and openly, more often than not. 

However, when there are exceptions, they tend to stand out.

Last week, an in-studio interview on the morning talk show on KUSA, in Denver, CO, went horribly wrong when a dog bit the host on the face. The dog, an 85-pound Argentine Mastiff named Max, had been rescued the previous day from an icy pond, and was in the studio with its master, who was talking about the incident and thanking Max’s rescuers.

At the end of the interview, the host, Kyle Dyer, leaned in close to the dog, apparently to kiss it. In an instant, the dog lunged and bit her on the face. Hard. It was an awkward moment, with the host disappearing off the set and the camera not sure where to go next. They cut to the weatherman, who was also speechless.

But the real story happens next. In covering its own story, the parent company, NBC, did not show video of the actual incident. What’s more, the network contacted web-based media outlets, requesting that the video clip be taken down because it has been “traumatizing” for staff members.

This was the point where I had to pick up my jaw and reattach it to my face. An American TV news program, attempting to suppress video because it traumatized their staff?

The hypocrisy! The gall! In case the good folks at KUSA and NBC don’t know, their newscasts – in fact, virtually ALL news stories, in print, radio, TV or web – are full of bad news. Some of that bad news involves traumatic events, such as houses on fire, car accidents, plane crashes, ships sinking, and so on.

Here’s a newsflash for KUSA: all those tragedies involve people, and all were likely traumatized by whatever happened. Chances are, they relive the trauma whenever they see that accident footage on the news, or the Internet. But that doesn’t stop media from showing the images.

If MSNBC had decided not to air the incident on their own newscasts, I could respect that. It’s their prerogative. But to contact other outlets, and ask them not to use it? That’s bizarre, and surprisingly naïve.

Here’s the link to a story from a competing media outlet, which talks about how MSNBC is handling the story. There’s also a link to unedited footage of the incident.

On a side note, the dog’s owner was charged with failure to have his dog on a leash – fwhen it feel into the pond – but also for allowing his dog to bite. That’s a bit much, especially when you read dog whisperer Cesar Milan’s take on the incident.

“The lesson in these stories isn’t to be afraid of one type of dog or another, but to learn how to approach a dog, whether it’s a stray or just a dog you haven’t met before,” Milan wrote, in his blog.

He said there are two factors that contributed to this incident.

“First of all, if you have never been in a studio during taping, it’s a crazy energy. There are people running around, strange noises, bright lights, and lots of shouting. Even for humans, it can freak you out, so you can imagine what it’s like for a dog to be in that environment.

“The other thing to always remember when meeting ANY dog is the rule, ‘no touch, no talk, no eye contact.’ You have to let the dog approach you and show him that you aren’t a threat. With Max, you could tell before the bite there was going to be trouble, because, she was holding his face with both hands and he was getting more and more uncomfortable, and when she leaned in to kiss him at the end, he thought it was an aggressive act and bit her.

“We have to remember it’s a dog, and they don’t understand it’s a sweet Valentine’s Day kiss. They just know they’re in a crazy place and someone is holding their collar and their face and not letting them get used to their surroundings. Finally, a human is invading their space with their hands and mouth. Max was clearly stressed out, and he got to a breaking point. Kyle Dyer clearly didn’t think she was upsetting the dog, and clearly meant well, but when you look at the situation from Max’s point of view, you can see how things went wrong.” 

You can read Cesar Milan’s full blog entry at this link:



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