In the wake of the Kyle Dyer on-air dog bite incident, 9News was accused of downplaying the story by declining to run the video and encouraging other outlets to follow suit. Now, though, the criticism has taken a turn, with some media observers accusing the station of exploiting the bite for ratings gold via features like last night's interview with Dyer, on view below. Are such complaints valid?
February is a sweeps period, meaning that viewership figures throughout the month are used to set advertising rates for the immediate future. During this time, TV news operations traditionally air their grabbiest, most hype-worthy reports and investigations in an effort to give the numbers a bump.
The attention that came the station's way after Dyer was bitten live on 9News' popular morning program by Max, an Argentine Mastiff who had been rescued from an icy pond the day before, has done just that, albeit entirely by coincidence. Yet multiple media sources have complained to yours truly over the past week about subsequent 9News tie-ins -- namely a week-long series of reports about dog safety. The pieces -- including the one on view below, which pertains to dogs interacting with each other -- are the sort of how-to puffery that's generally confined to morning or afternoon programs, rather than being given prime-time treatment.
And then there's the interview with Dyer, conducted by her morning-show partner, Gary Shapiro, which juxtaposes images of a healing, upbeat Dyer with a shocking shot of her just-stitched-up wounds, scored to melodramatic, soporific piano tinklings intended to give those heart strings an extra tug.
Over the line? It's a close call, but in the end, I don't think so. The dog-training series and the interview may not qualify as groundbreaking journalism, but they're imprinted with 9News' DNA.
In this market, the station pioneered the blend of self-promotion and do-goodism that the dog-safety packages represent. Witness its use of station talent in public-service announcements and as pitchmen for projects like Buddy Check9, which encourages breast self-examinations, and the 9Health Fair, a long-running program that offers screenings and check-ups at low cost. Such offerings enhance the station's reputation in ways that have been widely imitated by other broadcasters in these parts, but 9News still does them better than anyone -- a big reason why its newscasts have bested the competition in key slots for years.
As for the interview, it's every bit as newsworthy as was the bite video 9News chose not to re-screen. Dyer is a popular personality in the marketplace, and viewers have been understandably eager to hear her speak and see the extent of her injuries after the two surgeries she's undergone thus far. Granted, the interview should have addressed the question of whether Dyer believes she made a mistake by putting her face so close to Max's, and the tone would have been better if it hadn't echoed the conclusion of a Hallmark Channel movie. But I believe the station would have run it and the dog-training series had she been injured during any other month of the year.
That it happened in February doesn't make the accident happy, but it will cause the followup coverage to pay off in a very tangible way.
Look below to watch the interview, followed by the aforementioned sample of the dog-safety series.
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