Monday, November 14, 2005

What exactly is news?

Journalism lecturers at university taught me that news is amongst other things, new, unique, unusual, controversial or quirky.

A Factiva colleague and former journalist gave me a far more practical example – the “man bites dog” test. “It’s not news when a dog bites a man – that happens all the time,” he said. “But it is news when a man bites a dog.”

A quick search on returned some 289 articles dating back to 1987, with ‘Man Bites Dog’ in the headline. The stories behind those numbers are a little more disturbing…

One drunk man in Shanghai bit a dog to death after it had nipped him on the cheek as he walked home.

And spare a thought for Renny, a three-year old police-dog, who was bitten by a drunk patron leaving a Syracuse nightclub. When questioned and charged with injuring a police animal, the offender said he could not remember biting the dog because “he was pretty drunk.”

In another incident, a drunk and blind man was caught on cameras gnawing his guide dog’s ears and nose. He was fined and banned for life from ever owning a dog,

Eoow! What is it with drunk blokes and biting dogs?

On a more positive note, my favourite Man Bites Dog story was reported in the Daily Telegraph in August 2000. A Welsh fisherman had to abandon his boat in a storm and climb a 40 metre cliff. The only way he could save his pooch was to carry her to safety – using his teeth. "I grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and clamped my mouth around the fur. She didn't seem to mind," he said.

Aww…finally a good news story!


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