Michael Vick’s Pit Bulls & Dogfighting: Ramifications of Media Coverage
According to The Humane Society of the United States from 2006 to 2008 there were more than 3,000 pit bulls removed from dogfighting rings. The majority of surviving dogs were euthanized upon confiscation by authorities. The purpose of this research was to examine the possible impact of Michael Vick’s dogfighting case on print media coverage of pit bull-type dogs. The research questions were whether the extensive coverage of his dogfighting charges would change how media portray these dogs, and whether the issue of dogfighting would become a more widely-covered topic. The research process included a literature review of scholarly works written about pit bulls, and a qualitative analysis of articles from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today published one year before and after the Vick case broke, using “pit bull” as the key phrase. Articles were divided into different categories depending on the contextual use of the term “pit bull.” Findings were based on the analysis of those categories. The results indicated positive portrayals of pit bulls and discussions of dogfighting were primarily isolated to the coverage of Vick’s case and dogs. The more than 200 other recorded raids on dogfighting rings that same year went unmentioned, but six stories about aggressive pit bull-type dogs were covered. This indicates media coverage of pit bulls did not change. Media can learn there is more to cover than limiting the focus on celebrity dogfighters and the cliché of pit bulls as vicious. These changes in coverage could lead to an overall positive change in the public’s perception of pit bull-type dogs.
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