President Biden’s dogs Major and Champ are back in the news. And the coverage of the presidential pooches is generating some strong reactions — with some people arguing that the canine behavior isn’t newsworthy at all.
Reactions to the doggie coverage have run the gamut, showcasing the many feelings and gripes and questions people have about the American news media.
More than anything, the doggie drama heralds a return to a more mundane post-Trump news cycle. The Biden White House is largely scandal-free (by design) so a problematic pet counts as newsworthy. Of course, even the word “problematic” is a problem in some corners. There are Major defenders who think this subject is being botched by the press. So let’s unpack this a bit.
More than anything, in this always-on age, Major and Champ are #content, hashtag included. In the same way that presidential puppy photos are a reliable viewer draw, good dog/bad dog debates are traffic bait.
Every website gets clicks and everyone wins, except for the readers who aren’t in on the jokes.
A chance to learn
The age of abundance
I agree with Pace, but most people don’t see all of the AP’s Biden stories in one place — they see scraps of stories shared in social feeds. Gone are the days when the dogs would be the subject of a single People magazine spread or weekend TV segment. We live in age of news media abundance, when one bowel movement is covered a dozen different ways, and where the internet makes it all searchable. Then writers like me weigh in, and comedians, and contrarians, and the quantity of coverage causes normal people to roll their eyes and dismiss the media writ large. Not good!
The bottom line
But not all pet stories are the same. “I could have done without the poop anecdote” that was reported by the White House press pool on Wednesday, Bennett said, “mostly because it was Champ who had the accident and he is 13, and any of us who have raised a dog into old age are very sensitive to the ways in which our beloved dogs show decline. It broke my heart. I couldn’t find it funny, or newsy.”
“Yet, with the biting, in a very real news way, I did a good deal of reporting” about the incidents, Bennett said. She found that “there are a good deal of people who work on the campus, inside and out, who have had strong feelings about Major’s behavior since he arrived in late January.” When the president said in mid-March that 85% of the White House staff “love” the dog, he was acknowledging some of those strong feelings.
The bottom line, Bennett said, is that “the stories that rile up the Twitterverse…the most are the ones that are human. And there’s nothing more ‘human’ than a story about a pet dog. Right?”