Have you ever seen a “pit bull” story in the media that makes you cringe? Sensationalistic, bloody photos and breathless language instead of information about what actually happened? A rush to identify the dog as a “pit bull” and turn it into a “pit bull” story?
It’s frustrating, but your anger and outrage are not going to be productive. Close the browser window for a minute. Take a breath. Get a coffee.
Then decide whether it is worth your time to respond. Our time and energy is precious, and there are many ways we can advocate. In our experience, getting drawn into debates on comment threads or sending out angry, accusatory emails are not the best uses of time.
Think about it, if you do wish to respond, here are some tips:
Be respectful and keep your emotions out of it. A reporter is only going to delete a message that insults them or the media outlet they work for.
Be specific about your concern. News outlets receive feedback all the time about people liking, not liking, agreeing, or disagreeing with the article, so simply telling them they are wrong or misinformed is not going to sway them.
Keep it short and to the point. Reporters receive hundreds of emails on hundreds of topics so they won’t be bothered to read an essay. If you make a compelling point and open up a dialogue, you can always point them towards supplementary information later.
For example, instead of this:
“I couldn’t believe what I saw yesterday on the news. Your station is always picking on pit bulls! It’s 2017. Get with the program and start covering dog stories fairly!”
Consider a message like this:
“I am writing about the news story I saw on your station on the 6pm news titled “pit bull attack”. I was troubled by the fact that the breed of dog was mentioned in the headline and multiple times in the news report, although it was not clear to me that a reliable breed identification was confirmed. Visually based breed identification is extremely problematic, as shown by several studies. When dealing with a stigmatized category of dog, witnesses and reporters have historically jumped to conclusions about a dog being a “pit bull” when it may in fact have been any number of short-haired breeds or mixes. In the interest of accuracy and fair journalism, I suggest that the story be run as a ‘dog’ attack rather than making this a story about breed when breed was most likely not a factor in this incident.”
Links to more guidelines and tips are in the comments!