Luna, Luna, Luna

luna coverage composite 2

Too much?

It's pretty safe to say that we're dog people at AOA. Heck, we never shut up about the office dog.

But yesterday afternoon while watching the news spread that Luna -- the Capital Region's now-famous missing bulldog -- had been found in Colonie, we started thinking: Did this get out of hand?

The coverage of Luna's story started the way a lot of stories do these days -- online. Her owners had sent out an email asking people to keep an eye out for her. It didn't seem to take long before the word spread -- as best we can tell, we got the forwarded email just a few hours after it was sent out (it appears we were four connections away from the owners). Then we saw it mentioned on Twitter. (Yep, we re-tweeted.)

So, this all started very reasonably. A dog was missing, its owners sent out an email asking for help -- and people helped. That's good. But then it grew.

The story was posted on a TU blog about dogs. (Sure.) One of the TV stations picked it up. (Well...) There was coverage of the search party. (Really?) And then, after Luna was found on Monday, a press conference (What?). The story ended up being mentioned on every one of the local TV stations ("We'll tell you how bacon is responsible for this reunion") and was prominently featured on the front of the TU's site.

We're sure this was an important, heartbreaking (and then happy!) story for a few people And from a media perspective, it was an easy story -- beginning (cute dog escapes), middle (people searching) and end (She's found!). Yet -- dogs go missing all the time. And this was just one dog. Did she -- and her story -- really merit all the attention?

Media people will tell you that readers/viewers/users love dog stories. And this story was no different. The original post about it on the TU's Dog-Owned Life blog had generated 140 comments by Monday evening. That kind of comment count almost certainly means a whole lot of traffic.

And that sort of traffic means coverage. But when that happens, stories start to become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. We cover them because people know about them and are interested in them. But people know about them and are interested -- because we're covering the stories. In a way, the Luna story is as little like those missing young woman stories that were so popular during the last decade. She's like the Capital Region's canine Natalee Holloway.

There are consequences to all that coverage -- mainly, that other stuff didn't get covered. And in this case, "the other stuff" might not have been any more important -- especially during the slow first week of January. But as news organizations cut and cut and cut, you gotta wonder if spending resources on one lost dog is the best decision. If that's what people want to read/see/hear about, maybe it is. (And, yep, welcome to our glass house, have you met our friend Craig?) It depends on how you think the media should take part in discussions.

That said, we see an upside in all this coverage, too. The Luna story showed how easy it can now be to get the word out about an issue, even at the local level. And when the word spread, people took action. It was estimated that about 75 people showed up this past weekend to look for Luna. It's good to see people actually do something about an issue that concerns them.

And we gotta admit: we were happy to see Luna back with her people. We love dogs.

Comments

The coverage of this "story" was rediculous. I'm glad it had a happy ending, but the fact that it was given more than a few seconds of airtime is pretty pathetic, imho.

so meta.... j/k, I don't even know what that means.

What a pathetic post....how very sad that you feel a lost deaf dog was a waste of coverage. When things are so bad all over the country, it was touching to see pet lovers step up and help find this missing dog. When you lose a dog you don't have law enforcement or the FBI coming in to help find it...you rely on the kindness of people. Hope none of you ever lose a loving pet. You really should be ashamed...

This post makes an important point. In contrast to @Just my thoughts above, I think the fact that things ARE "so bad all over the country" demonstrates that news affiliates--especially in a state's capital--have a responsibility to use their resources by helping to disseminate and then clarify information about those vitally important "bad things." If the news is a drag, watch an uplifting movie, read a funny book, or spend time volunteering with abandoned animals. I'm not sure when exactly daily news got so watered down that people expected it to be a panacea.

@Just my thoughts-- you seem to be misunderstanding that the AOA post isn't criticizing the search efforts-- it's criticizing the inane news coverage of them.

"how very sad that you feel a lost deaf dog was a waste of coverage. "

I think you've completely misread this article. Nowhere was it stated that the coverage was a waste, but rather indicated that because of the state of media these days, it may have been put in the place of other news which may have been equally (or more) important than someone's lost dog. It was a commentary on the problems of media, not on whether or not losing a dog is a big deal.

Nice. I hope to see many more stories about how this was over-reported :-)

A gutsy post.

@Just: "when things are so bad all over the country", I'd rather see people gather up to solve those very issues. And maybe they do, but there was certainly something puzzling (and self-sustained) about how much coverage it received. You can find it touching... or you can wonder if some perspective wasn't lost in the process too. Say, to compare to a topic from last week, I'm pretty sure it was covered more than the Albany YMCA closing, which definitely will have an impact on young people and communities locally. And no, the FBI should not help you find a dog, sorry; unless it turned into some kind of werewolf, but even there I'd call Robert Pattinson first.

@Just my thoughts: I think AOA was really commenting on the media climate that led to this story, not on the subject itself. Of COURSE they love dogs and felt for the owners... but that's not what this post is about.

I actually think this post was very interesting--I too wondered why this one particular story was getting so much coverage. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that this story was picked up by a lot of avid social media users, and just spread from there.

I work with the media frequently, and I've seen dramatic declines in their collective ability to cover stories in just the last few years. It's very sad that the local media outlets have been forced to make such severe cuts in staff and resources. Ultimately, it affects the quality and integrity of our local news... and not in a good way.

@Just my thoughts: I don't think they were saying it was a waste of coverage, just that it went a wee bit out of hand. I lost a beloved dog when I was a child, and we didn't get any media coverage. It's sad for all the other lost pets who don't get any attention, just because they don't have a handicap.

THAT BEING SAID: I totally agree with you that it's touching and uplifting to see a happy ending in a circumstance such as this. When I see a lost pet sign in my neighborhood it breaks my heart...not only for the lost animal, but for what the family has to go through. Having been there, I understand it all too well. I love these stories just as much as the next person, and couldn't be more relieved and happy that Luna is home at last.

I also wonder how many news outlets ran it because it was a solid ratings grab compared to other stories they could run. I agree - it was a lot of coverage for one story, but it did sure get the word out. I don't pay much attention to radio/TV news, but I sure knew there was a deaf dog out somewhere in the Cap Region, and I'm glad to know she's back home safe with family.

II was also really wondering how you look for a deaf dog. Lots of ppl spread out makes sense.

You've hit the nail on the head; but I think there's more loops to the self-fulfilling prophecy. I think about this nearly every day:

1) Stories like this attract attention and eyeballs (traffic, viewers, readers, whatnot). As consumers of information it fills need for topical fluff.

2) Because stories like this do well, media devote time and resources to them and mistake delivering what the people want for the information people need.

3) As media organizations "cut and cut and cut" these easy stories become the bread-and-butter because they're topical, timely, and don't require long-range effort. They need something to fill the pages, broadcast, site update with, afterall, to make it seem like they're on top of what's going on in their community.

Long form, well-researched enterprise and document-based reporting take a backseat.

Was it a lot of coverage for one dog? Sure. But I think it's important to look at the response this generated-- 75 people showed up at one time to help someone look for their lost pet. Who knows how many people looked on their own time. That's pretty incredible.

My parents' dog escaped the house and went missing for a few days last year, and it took the help of their whole neighborhood to get her back. Save for a few, they hadn't met most of the people who looked for her. Looking wasn't a big commitment on their part-- they'd spend a few minutes searching their yard, leave out some smelly food, or give my folks a call if they spotted her. I can't tell you how knowing that strangers were willing to help comforted my parents until they got her home. Since then, we've all helped someone else in our towns search for their lost pet.

Seeing this kind of coverage is very different when you've been on the other side. My greatest hope is that this will help change people's mindsets when they see a lost pet (or even person) flyer in the future and they'll make the same effort.

@AlbanyJane: "I also wonder how many news outlets ran it because it was a solid ratings". Of course. Cute smart deaf dog. Gold.

"II was also really wondering how you look for a deaf dog."
=> That way (though some people disagree).

Personally, I consider myself a cat person. That said, however, I will take the dog news over the recent Tiger news any day!

I think sometimes in this day we are all so caught up in our day to day lives that these stories become a distraction from our own issues. And for all of us pet owners and lovers - we were all rooting for Luna to be found safe.

In addition to the media coverage - it was covered extensively on Facebook. I think there were very few people who did not know about Luna and her situation and this helped to unite her with her people.

There's nothing better than a happy ending pet story - because we have all seen so many that aren't.

I'm so very happy I didn't have to come on here and be the first one to say this story was ridiculous. It's a dog. Where were the 75 people out looking for Rainwalker? It is very sad that more people show up to help a dog than an actual human being.

This should reflect my feelings on pets:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/99942/saturday-night-live-mostly-garbage-dog-food

if not, this should too:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/4102/saturday-night-live-dissing-your-dog

@-S I don't know about you, but I would totally respond to that call, dog or not.

What a ridiculous, uninformed statement, Save Pine Hills.

"Search continues for missing youth," Nov. 7, 2007

"Missing boy brings community together," Nov. 10, 2007

"Search for missing boy continues for third day," Nov. 15, 2007

"Search for missing boy takes new tack," Dec. 7, 2007

"Keeping the flame for missing boy," Dec. 24, 2007

"Money put up to find boy," Jan. 3, 2008

And so on and so forth, all through November 2009. I don't mind differences in opinion, so long as those involved have their facts straight.

to the people who think it is too much ... get a life. It says alot about people who are not dog lovers. How would you feel if someone in your family got lost? You cannot put a value on a loyal pet's love. With that being said, I'm glad I have loyal pets and hopefully you and I will never meet. I don't need negative people in my life.

@Dawn - here's the thing, people do go missing. And there's rarely this much media attention in those cases. I understand the outpouring of feelings coming from people, but in my opinion, that should be limited to social outlets, and MAYBE a short blurb on the news because this dog was different than your run-of-the-mill lost puppy. But the overexposure of this story is all part of the "fluffification" of our news. And that's what rubs me the wrong way.

Animal stories must seem tricky to editors. I recall the story a month or two ago of the beagle that was found in Saratoga County bound by duct tape and left in a trash bag in the woods. That was newsworthy -- it was an unfathomable level of cruelty which could lead to harm against people. The Luna story did not have nearly the same implications.

I think it's a great story and I didn't mind the attenttion. I would want the same thing for my dog or cat. But what people need to realize is what drove this story in the first place was video. Without video of the 'clever and deaf dog" opening doors and escaping the hospital, this never would have made the tv. The owners were lucky there was a camera that captured the escape, fueling minor...then major coverage. Visual material is what drives a lot of stories on local and major television news. Think about it.

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