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July 2007 - Nr. 7


The Editor
To the Editor
Hot City's Summer Days
Baden in Kanada
Dan's Satire
Paul Bernhard Berghorn
Hier O.K. Berlin!
Austrian Honours
Oberlander, Spielball der Politik
Simcoe or Berczy
Das Konsulat teil mit
KW & Beyond
INK the Production
Club Loreley & Fiesta Week
Music in Toronto
Dick reports...Muddy York
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Blasorchester von Fulda
World Rhythms
The Pillow Man
Art History July
Kurt Weill Centenary
Spiegel Show So Hot!
Ukrainian Festival
Cosmedic Pesticides Use
To Lean or Not Too Lean
Outdoor Prepared
Ontario Lacrosse Festival
Austria's FIFA Team
After the World Cup


by Dave McKague


My Dog Teaches
… How to Read a Newspaper

Hunny: "Throw the ball and I love you forever!"My American Staffordshire Terrier, Hunny, can fetch the newspaper and bring it excitedly to my feet. It’s a good thing I haven’t yet taught her to read, because her enthusiasm for bringing the paper might be severely dampened if she could read some of the defamatory statements made about her and her “Pit Bull” cousins.

Occasionally you will see headlines that scream “Pit Bull Attacks!” Editors count on the fact that you will be so caught up in the lurid and sensationalized details that you won’t care that the incident may have occurred thousands of miles away. And they hope you don’t notice the tiny correction that often appears buried in the back pages a few days later saying that the dog involved was not a Pit Bull after all. Reports of severe attacks by other breeds often die on the editor’s desk. Somehow, the headline “Labrador Retriever Attacks!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

You may have thought that there has been a dramatic increase in dog attacks over recent years, especially by vicious Pit Bulls wandering loose in the streets. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Dog attacks are exceedingly rare and the rate of fatalities attributed to dogs has remained relatively constant over the last 37 years. The perception that it is otherwise stems from irresponsible media reporting. In 1991, Australia placed severe restrictions on Pit Bulls based on news accounts from around the world, yet at the time there had not been a single reported incident of a Pit Bull attack in that country. The same occurred here in Ontario where headlines and mythology took precedence over any real investigation into facts.

In the newsrooms, one or two isolated incidents can become an epidemic. How many times have you found yourself thinking, “I didn’t know the problem was that bad” when the latest issue is paraded like a fashion model on a runway for all the world to see? Chances are, you are probably right. While there can be some serious societal problems (for example, most of us know at least one person who has been affected by drug and alcohol abuse) there are also issues that are created out of whole cloth by the news media. After all, the society is made of individuals and if a particular issue has not affected you or anyone you know personally, how prevalent can it be?

All anecdotal stories need to be put into perspective. It is unlikely that most of us would think golfing dangerous if we hear about someone being killed by lightning on the links. And yet according to the National Safety Council, the odds of dying from a lightning strike are greater than dying from a dog attack. In Australia between 1979 and 1996, eleven people were killed by dogs; in the same period, 41 lost their lives due to a bee or wasp sting.

It would be wise for us to remember that, if bad news sells, then disaster and catastrophe sell even more. (For once, I would like to hear the news anchor introduce the news with, “And now for the latest disasters”, though this is unlikely as it exposes the pretense that much of what we are watching is somehow relevant to our lives.) Newspapers and television newsrooms follow the mantra, “the worse the news, the better the story”. Which is why both tend to sensationalize. And once they get hold of a good “story”, they can be as tenacious as the mythical Pit Bull they have created (“… in their own image”, some might add) and refuse to let go.

Many individuals and groups decry the violent images that appear in our TV newscasts, wondering aloud about the damage being done to our young people as a result. Perhaps the bigger problem is that we are inundated with bad news about situations over which we have no control or influence. If we continually watch or read about tragedies and disasters about which we will do nothing, doesn’t that turn us into apathetic spectators?

Being continually bombarded with bad news, it is very easy for us to become pessimistic and think that the world is a much more dangerous place than it actually is. Try not reading the newspapers or watching the news on TV for a couple of weeks. You might find that the world really isn’t a bad place to live, that people are nicer and friendlier than you thought, and that you just feel better.

Previous "Petitorial" articles by David McKague:


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