The 9 On Your Side Pit Bull Coverage Manifesto
On March 7 these two pit bulls put an 89 year old Tucson woman in the hospital.
Notes by: Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director
The latest vicious dog attack in Tucson, which put an 89 year old woman in the hospital, once again has our KGUN9 Facebook page and the comments section of KGUN9.com jumping. By now, the reaction every time a pit bull attack makes the news on KGUN9-TV has become quite predictable, and the latest postings do not disappoint. But we're also seeing something new.
Based on coverage of past attacks, here is the predictable part of the reaction:
1. "There is no problem!": Pit bull advocates begin posting pictures of their cute, cuddly pit bulls doing cute, cuddly things (wearing sunglasses and kerchiefs, posing with teddy bears, snuggling up with children and so on), and demanding to know why KGUN9 wants to kill their perfectly harmless pets.
2. "It's the owner!": Pit bull advocates point out, often in all caps, words to the effect of, "IT'S NOT THE DOG!!!!! IT'S THE OWNER!!!!!" There have been so many postings of this nature over past months that it has led to a worldwide shortage of capital letters and exclamation points.
3. "It's all a media conspiracy!": Posters attack KGUN9 with allegations of KGUN9 bias, claiming that KGUN9 is backing a ban on pit bulls, hates pets, and so on. Many of them demand to know why KGUN9 doesn't run stories about other dogs that bite, particularly Chihuahuas. Others claim we are removing viewer comments favoring pit bulls from our web site and Facebook page.
4. "The dog is the victim!": Postings thus far from pit bull advocates typically express concern only for the attacking dog or for pit bulls in general. If these posters have any concern for the human victim, many of them are keeping it to themselves. But they do make it clear that they are outraged by all the pit bull slander that's going around in the media and on KGUN9 in particular.
Pit bull partisans have plastered our web sites with so many comments of this type in reaction to any and every story mentioning the words "pit bull" that KGUN9 has become Tucson's Official Pit Bull Station. We are not, however, thinking of changing our call letters to KPIT as one wag helpfully suggested.
We're seeing those same predictable postings now as well. You've seen then before, can see them now, and can also read about them in past Viewers' Voice columns.
But in addition, something else is starting to happen that we haven't seen previously to such a great degree. Now, those who are fed up with vicious dog attacks and want to see something done about the issue are speaking up loudly and clearly in numbers we haven't seen before. Perhaps even more remarkably, even some avowed pit bull fans and owners now seem open to some kind of regulatory action.
Here is a sample of this latest flavor of comment:
Donna Alvarado (via Facebook): "Everyone loses. This precious lady suffers, the dog owner grieves his dogs, and the dogs are killed. ALL dogs, regardless of breed, should be trained and controlled. All of this pain and suffering could have been prevented. Onwers need to be responsible for their dogs."
Jewel Jade (via Facebook): "Now is your chance, law makers (especially Mr. Mayor) to show that you are caring, intelligent people with backbones that can stand up and say, 'Enough is enough! No more attacks, no more maulings, no more deaths, no more PIT BULLS!' Don't you all think it's time to stop sitting on your butts and start doing something to protect the GOOD citizens of this city?! Oh, I bet if it were your child, there'd be a law in place quickly to get these dangerous mauling machines off of our city's streets! Right?! Well, the next time, it just might be. These dogs need, at the very least, very heavy regulation."
Edward Dunham (via Facebook): "Time for a city wide ordinance. 'If your dog attacks and send a person to the hospital you serve 90 days in jail.' Tired of all these dogs attacking in town."
Angy Anderson (via Facebook): "I absolutely agree! Great idea! Maybe if we all say it enough, somebody will finally listen and start putting out punishments on these owners, and stop making ALL of us pit owners & pits look bad!"
Sandie A Boscia (via Facebook): "I think it should be longer and I think it should be prison.... It should be considered a felony when a dog any dog mauls someone especially children and the elderly."
Peggy Shanks (via Facebook): "Pit bulls run the streets where I live. I'm afraid for my kids, and I call the dog pound and they do nothing."
Kathy Kamper (via Facebook): "My neighbor's pit can jump over their concrete fence and she did just that, and jumped ours and took our baby girl poodle off back to her yard. The [other] neighbors moved because the dog walked the concrete fence all the time and she was fearful for her two children. I would love to see an educational process and special licensing process for anyone to own one."
bluedog2 (via KGUN9.com, in response to a comment defending the dogs' owner in the most recent attack): "I'm sure the pit bull owner's 'caring and concerned demeanor' is of great value to this poor woman, the victim of 'the worst dog attack that he had ever seen' (responding paramedic) as she suffers on her hospital bed."
As noted, there are still plenty of comments of the other variety from pit bull defenders. But it's clear that despite the best efforts of some to suppress it, this issue has not gone away.
Here is what you can expect from 9 On Your Side going forward.
1. KGUN9 will continue to cover issues involving vicious dogs -- any breed, any newsworthy local incident that comes to our attention.
2. KGUN9 will continue our policy of not banning negative comments on our Facebook page and on KGUN9.com. Yes, this means you can attack KGUN9 on our own page and get away with it. Sometimes we will respond directly, other times we'll respond via Viewers' Voice postings like this one. We think this policy of allowing and responding to public criticism posted on our own websites may be unique to KGUN9. But such is our respect for viewers that we are interested in what you have to say, and we want you to come to our site and our Facebook page to say it -- even if you think our coverage stinks, and even if we disagree with what you have to say. No one gets banned and no posts get deleted unless they cross the lines of civil conduct. Hopefully I don't have to spell out what I mean by "civil conduct," but if you are in doubt, drop me a note.
3. We will conduct ourselves via the principles set out in our Viewers' Bill of Rights. That means you can expect diversity of opinion. It means you can expect us to hold the powerful accountable. It means you can expect us not to take sides. I get asked from time to time, "So what does 'On Your Side' mean, then, if you don't take sides?" And I hear from people who love to post and say, "KGUN9 is not on my side." Actually, the fact that we leave such posts standing proves my point. KGUN9 is on the side of people who have a point they'd like to make. Sometimes, people need help to be heard, and that's where we come in. We are on the side of people who want to be heard and want to get answers. We are not on the side of people trying to shout down or suppress someone else's viewpoint, regardless of the nature of that viewpoint.
4. People are getting hurt. 9 On Your Side is not going away on this issue until we have some sense from our community leaders and residents that this issue has been sufficiently explored and that the proper action -- if, indeed, any action appears to be indicated or warranted at this time -- has been taken.
I've issued a memo to the KGUN9 newsroom explaining some of these principles. One of the things in which we believe at 9 On Your Side is the idea of transparency in our editorial process. Therefore, I am publishing this memo for you to see. It is attached to this story as a related document, available on the upper left side of this page (beneath the photos). As you can see, we are listening to some of the criticisms put up by the pit bull crowd, but are determined not to let the heat we are getting from those critics deter us from our reporting.
We're doing all this because that is what we think the public at large deserves and wants. We invite you to let us know whether those beliefs are on track by continuing to comment on our coverage, which you can do here or on our Facebook page.