This is the backdrop when I read Times articles like one on Feb. 26, headlined “A New Breed of Ring Bearers Trot Down the Aisle.” In it I learned about a furry wedding guest named Major and the barking and growling that “served as background music” to the wedding vows.
A few days before that article, on Feb. 23, there was another one headlined “Play Dead, Act Coy, Roll Over and Upstage the Humans,” which informed us that while “dog stars do not compare with human actors … they can give camera-hogging performances.”
A 45 percent jump in precious newspaper space given to dogs is significant. But check this out. Fifteen years ago, before Abramson had any clout at The Times, there were only 167 references to dogs during a four-month time-frame that I checked. That indicates an increase of more than 100 percent in the attention given to dogs between then and now!
One defense of the Times’s dog proclivities might be that there are more dogs in the city (and nation) now, and that more coverage is warranted. Hmm. Cute. But I don’t buy it.
A Lexis check of The Daily News indicates that its coverage of dogs remained the same over the past 15 years. Back then there were 84 multiple references to dogs (i.e., stories that mentioned dogs at least three times) during a four-month period. There were 89 during an equivalent period recently. (Disclosure: I once was a reporter for The Daily News, and today I read both The News and The Times faithfully.)
Reading Abramson’s book, I learned that her predecessor as editor, Bill Keller, susupected that Abramson was using her position as managing editor to push dogs to the top of the stories list. Keller “told me that he noticed a sudden rise in the number of stories being pitched for the front page,” she wrote.
“To curb the trend,” she continued, “he urged me to recuse myself from any discussion about a proposed story.”
So now the question is this: With Keller no longer the boss, who will watch the watch-dog?