Media Manufactures Fear

The media cannot be looked upon as an accurate source of reference. What they print is not held up to any exacting standards, and reporters rarely have the time or resources to research the origin of any given source and establish the facts on their own.

Journalism is maintained by a collection of communication practices that inherently blue the distinction between fact, information, and knowledge. Too many reporters determine their own brand of facts by drawing from sources that they consider reliable without any further investigation.

Even if a reporter has first hand information, the editor still has the ability to punch up the headline and insert images that may corrupt the entire story by twisting the reader’s mindset before he actually has a chance to learn the facts.

For example, the New York Times has a lengthy history of publishing negative reports about pit bulls, and their word becomes fact to many reporters who don’t want to investigate different viewpoints.

The media does not have any desire to deceive the public or intentionally create bias, but the practices they partake stem from a series of “follow the leader” games, making it easier than doing the actual research.

There are many examples of defective reporting practices…

In August 2007, when the body of Jacob Adams was found on Ving Rhames’ property in Brentwood, California, the media was quick to release hundreds of speculative and inaccurate stories proclaiming Adams was killed or mauled to death by the dogs. For over 400 days, the media covered the story with over 300 media sources reporting the four dogs mauled the man to death.

Ving Rhames Dog Attack

After the autopsy was performed, the preliminary results found that the dogs did not cause death even though there were bite and claw marks on Adams’ extremities; the injuries were superficial and not sufficient to the cause of death. Only two newspapers, The LA Canyon and  The Globe and Mail, reported the results of the autopsy. After the autopsy, only 34 media sources reported Rhames’ condolences to Adams’ family and the facts about his death. Some media sources even accused Rhames’ statement of being speculative with headlines such as: “Ving Rhames Assumes His Dogs are Innocent!” and “Ving Comes up to Conclusions in Dog Attack Case.”

In 2002, family pit bulls were reported at shredding granny to shreds. A woman was found dead in her daughter’s home with several bites on her.  Because there were two dogs- a Pit Bull and pit bull mix- were at the home, the police and coroner assumed the dogs were the cause. It was not uncommon to see headlines such as “Killer it Bulls Rip Granny to Shreds” (New York Post). These same dogs were reported to be covered in blood or to at least have blood on them.

The neighbor claimed “the dogs were vicious, they barked a lot and looked vicious.” One paper even published a picture with one of the dogs baring its teeth, clearly agitated in the stressful and unknown surroundings of the animal shelter, where the dogs sat for eight months.

The woman’s daughter, who owned both of the dogs, was sure that her dogs had not caused her mother’s death and hired an independent forensic pathologist. He looked at the findings from the initial autopsy report and re-evaluated them, who discovered that the woman had died of cardiac arrhythmia and the bite wounds were non-lethal and postmortem.

It’s not uncommon for dogs of any breed to inflict postmortem wounds on their deceased owners. Poodles, Dachshunds, Labrador Retrievers, and mix breed dogs have all been recorded at inflicting such wounds. This is not, nor has it ever been, linked with any form of aggressiveness.

The dogs were released back to their owner when she provided the expert’s report, but there was never a retraction about the “pit bull attack” or “pit bull fatality,” which remain archived in newspapers and on the Internet.

Journalists often refuse to recognize real facts and print retractions of harmful and erroneous reports because it wouldn’t make for a good story.

There tends to be a “shoot first and maybe ask questions later” momentum with journalism and media. They thrive on a good story and a good headline that will catch the attention of readers.

Media is and always has been a “problem generating machine” promoting fear based stories enhancing the fear of the unknown and generating the want not to know or find out more. News about Pit Bulls draw emotion from many people because pit bulls are dogs that people love to hate, and they’re sure to sell.