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Making the News, March 18, 2014

How the Media treats Pit Bulls

an insider's view on crafting television news stories

March 18, 2014

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Attorney Fred Kray, his co-host Kris "Brown Sugar" Diaz from StopBSL, and the rest of the PBLNR crew welcome Barbara Besteni, Executive Producer of WPLG TV in Miami, Florida. Ms. Besteni talks about how news stories are selected, titled, and edited, with an eye towards discovering how pit bulls are treated in the media.

Where does a television station get its news? In the case of dog attack stories, primarily from listening to police scanners and police press releases. According to Ms. Besteni, nine times out of ten, police reports will list a dog as a pit bull (such identification is often wrong). Stories are also reported to news stations by individuals. This suggests that attacks NOT reported to police have a slim chance of receiving news coverage.

Ms. Besteni also discusses some of the problems with coverage of dog attack stories—the difficulty of keeping "unproven specificity" out of headlines, the pressure to release stories immediately online instead of holding them to the evening broadcast, and lack of resources to give further coverage to stories.

Finally, Ms. Besteni confirms what we all suspect—animal stories are immensely popular, especially positive ones. Host Fred Kray met Ms. Besteni through the case of Brandie, a dog slated to be put down as "dangerous" but who was ultimately released. Brandie's case generated a great deal of media coverage and  resulted in a change to local dangerous dog laws. (You can read about Brandie's case at Dangerous Dog Law.)

Plus, Deirdre "Little Darling" Franklin tells us about her new tattoo and changing perceptions of pit bulls and Kris Diaz covers BDL—including the big win in South Dakota.

And then the PBLNR crew put some really strange dog training questions to Yvette Van Veen. Dominance licking?

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