Dogs and Journalists Don’t Mix
Have you ever played the game, how many inaccuracies can you find in one article by a large media outlet newspaper? It is fun but quite sad. This is not to single out a specific newspaper but to focus on the systemic problem affecting media and journalists today. It is more important than ever as a consumer to put on our critical thinking hats and glasses and to do a lot of legwork and research ourselves. You really shouldn’t believe most articles you read without double and triple-checking the sources and facts regardless if it’s coming from Fun Paw Care or The Washington Post.
That said, I was eager to read the news article titled “The Belgian Malinois: The dog the White House didn’t use on fence-jumping intruder” written by Gail Sullivan of the Washington Post. I love Belgian Malinois so I couldn’t wait to jump in with my morning tea! It was a well-meaning article detailing out the secret service and the dogs that protect the White House but strewn with inaccuracies and exaggerations.
Can a Journalist be an Expert on a Wide Diversity of Topics?
The short answer is, no, they can’t! Do journalists have a responsibility to only report accurate, ethical, up-to-date information, and not to report from shoddy, dubious sources without investigating the claims and science behind the numbers? I know irresponsible journalists and propaganda reinforce irrational “Pit Bull” fears in Los Angeles and all over the world by sensationalism and misleading the public, but do newspapers take greater responsibility to report the facts?
With the early morning sunrise glow as my reading light, I sat down and eagerly read this article. To my dismay, I found four inaccuracies, exaggerations, and/or inappropriate endorsements of abusive dog “training” techniques. In Gail’s defense, she probably thought she could trust some of her sources because she cited the U.S. Department of Defense which is also scarily listing incorrect information on their web site. I have an email in to them with no response thus far. Many web sites, even from suspected “trusted” sources have inaccuracies and just flat out false information. But for a seemingly leading and trusted news outlet such as the Washington Post is it not more important to disseminate correct, accurate, and up-to-date information about your story than expediency? Information is ubiquitous and technology has made it easier than ever before in humankind to fact check, connect and find resources (for free). Is there really an excuse anymore? There are few barriers to entry and very low cost (if any) to ascertain correct science and accurate information. So why isn’t it being done on a regular basis? Is the rush to get an article out to print so intense that research and fact-checking has gone by the wayside?
What do these errors and exaggerations tell you about the state of the journalism industry?
The Quick ‘N Dirty Journalist Errors I Found:
- “the force of its bite equals 1,400 pounds per square inch”. No, the bite force of a Belgian Malinois is not 1,400 pounds per square inch. This is the most egregious claim of the bunch. The bite force is far under 1,400 pounds per square inch and would be closer to 200-300 pounds per square inch for a Belgian Malinois. A dog’s bite force is directly correlated to his/her head size. And just in case you were wondering, NO, a “Pit Bull” dog does not have a locking mechanism (lockjaw) a myth that is spread by many uninformed people.
- The footage and links in the Washington Post article show and point to “trainers” using abusive shock collars, pronged collars and choke chains. The inhumane and abusive practice of training a dog with shock collars, choke chains and pronged collars are not only less effective to train military dogs, police dogs or house dogs with but also inhumane to use on any animal. The links point to dogs specifically wearing animal abuse electric collars/chock collars pronged collars and choke chains. Shock collars pronged collars and choke chains are illegal in many countries and jurisdictions such as Miami Beach but are not used by any humane educated behaviorist and/or dog training professional.
- “A Belgian Malinois has a 270-degree field of vision.” Dogs’ have a remarkably wide field of view; however, a canine’s field of vision is closer to 240 degrees, not the purported 270 degrees.
- “A Belgian Malinois can run 30 miles per hour”. Belgian Malinois are fast, very fast, and there may be some who can sprint 30+ mph, however, most run closer to a sustained 25 mph. This may be pedantic but the higher speeds are more of a sprint, not a sustained running speed.
These are just a few of the statistics and claims that caught my wandering eye on a cursory morning skim. What else do you see that could be improved upon? Whatever happened to the adage, professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility? Feel free to comment on my writing as well as I enjoy constructive criticism and corrections of inaccuracies, including my own.