Today’s canine bigotry, misinformation and blatantly terrible reporting prize goes to the CBS affiliate in Tampa. It reported a story involving a man who left a 10-month old baby alone in a home to go out drinking, with only a dog in charge of the child. But the CBS headline was “Man Leaves Pit Bull To Babysit Infant Child,” and included this stock photo of a snarling pit bull:
The implication of both the headline and the photo is that the child’s peril was increased by its being left alone with a vicious dog. Actually, the child was probably safer with a pit bull than any other breed: this is a breed, after all, that was known as “the nanny dog” for much of the 20th Century. If the mention of the breed had been intended as possible mitigation for the jerk that left the baby without human supervision, that might be legitimate reporting, but what CBS did was pure sensationalism and distortion based on the ignorance of the reporter and the editor. The headline invoked the irrational fear of pit bulls, based on ignorance stoked by reporting like CBS’s. The photo didn’t depict the actual dog involved, which just as easily might look like this…
… and was intentionally chosen to create the impression that the man, in addition to deserting the baby, left it at the mercy of a dangerous beast. Would the headline have mentioned the breed of dog if it had been a Labrador or a poodle? The breed was only relevant to the story if you believe that it placed the child in more danger than just being left home alone. Journalism is supposed to make us better informed, not more ignorant than we already are. This requires, however, responsible and intelligent journalists.
Source and Graphic: CBS