Man bites dog (journalism)

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The phrase man bites dog is a shortened version of an aphorism in journalism which describes how an unusual, infrequent event is more likely to be reported as news than an ordinary, everyday occurrence with similar consequences, such as a dog biting a person ("dog bites man"). An event is usually considered more newsworthy if there is something unusual about it; a commonplace event is less likely to be seen as newsworthy, even if the consequences of both events have objectively similar outcomes. The result is that rarer events more often appear as news stories, while more common events appear less often, thus distorting the perceptions of news consumers of what constitutes "normal" rates of occurrence.

The phenomenon is also described in the journalistic saying, "You never read about a plane that did not crash".[1]

The phrase was coined by Alfred Harmsworth (1865–1922), a British newspaper magnate, but is also attributed to New York Sun editor John B. Bogart (1848–1921): "When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news."[2][3] The quote is also attributed to Charles Anderson Dana (1819–1897).[4]

Examples of literal use in journalism[edit]

In 2000, the Santa Cruz Sentinel ran a story titled "Man bites dog" about a San Francisco man who bit his own dog.[5]

Reuters ran a story, "It's News! Man Bites Dog", about a man biting a dog[6] in December 2007.

A 2008 story of a boy biting a dog in Brazil had news outlets quoting the phrase.[7]

In 2010, NBC Connecticut ran a story about a man who bit a police dog, prefacing it with, "It's often said, if a dog bites a man it's not news, but if a man bites a dog, you've got a story. Well, here is that story."[8]

On May 14, 2012, the Medway Messenger, a British local newspaper, ran a front page story headlined "MAN BITES DOG" about a man who survived a vicious attack from a Staffordshire bull terrier by biting the dog back.[9]

On September 27, 2012, the Toronto Star, a Canadian newspaper, ran the story headlined "Nearly Naked Man Bites Dog", about a man that is alleged to have bitten a dog in Pembroke, Ontario.[10]

On December 2, 2012, Sydney Morning Herald reported about a man that bit the dog and its unfortunate consequence; 'Man bites Dog, goes to hospital' [11]

On May 5, 2013, "Nine News", an Australian news outlet, ran a story headlined "Man bites dog to save wife" about a man who bit a Labrador on the nose, after it attacked his wife and bit off her nose.[12]

On March 12, 2014, Rosbalt, a Russian news agency, reported that a man in Lipetsk had burnt a bed in his apartment, run around the city in his underwear, and, finally, "biten a fighting breed dog" following an hours-long online debate about the situation in Ukraine.[13]

In April 2014, CNN reported a mom bit a pit bull attacking her daughter. [14]

On June 14, 2014, the South Wales Argus ran a front page teaser headlined "Man Bites Dog" about a man who has been accused of assaulting his partner and her pet dog. The Online version of this story was later amended to "Man bites dog and escapes jail". [15]

As an example of a related phrase, a story titled "Deer Shoots Hunter" appeared in a 1947 issue of the Pittsburgh Press, mentioning a hunter that was shot by his own gun due to a reflex kick by the deer he had killed.[16]

References[edit]