Here in Los Angeles, at least, it seems you can regularly find at least one newspaper story that involves a dog.
Based on a new study, this is not too surprising.
Published last month in the journal PS: Political Science & Politics, “What’s a Dog Worth” takes a look at the “dog effect” in news coverage decisions by national and local newspapers.
“Events most likely to be reported are those that are both important and can capture the audience’s interest,” wrote the study’s authors, Matthew D. Atkinson of UCLA, and Maria Deam and Joseph E. Uscinski of the University of Miami. “In turn, the public is most likely to become aware of important news when some aspect of the story piques their interest.
“We suggest an efficacious means of drawing public attention to important news stories: dogs.”
In the study, the authors went through stories published in the New York Times’ national section since 2000, selecting 18 stories that involved dogs and 334 that did not. Then they checked 10 other local and national newspapers to see which of these stories were published the following day.
“In short: A front-page story in the New York Times was picked up by other papers at 3.1 times the rate of a story from the last page of the national news section,” wrote Philip Bump in his Wonkblog story about the study for the Washington Post. “A story that involved a dog that appeared on the last page of the section appeared in other newspapers at 2.6 times the rate of a non-dog story with the same placement.”
The authors of the study noted that “having a canine subject in a national news event produced coverage of the story that was 80 percent as large as the effect of the difference between being New York Times front-page and back-page worthy.”
Their conclusion? “Dogs are an important factor in news decisions.”
As Bump wrote, “Be honest: You clicked the link to this story because it mentions dogs. Dogs are terrific, speaking both objectively and with the full editorial weight of the Washington Post at my back. That excellence lead to affection; that affection to curiosity. The curiosity that drove your click, as it turns out, is not unique to you. It is shared by editorial teams at newspapers.”
Photo credit: Jon Seidman