It feels a bit like we broke the Internet this week. Â And we didn’t even have to show some skin.
Last Thursday afternoon, the texts I was receiving from my staff regarding a feature we ran on a popular residence hall therapy dog, Ivy, changed suddenly. Â My heart sank when instead of messages reading, “Her owner is so happy about the article!” they said, “Ivy’s getting kicked off campus.” Â The follow-up story we ran the next day was our feeble attempt to objectively apologize to Mike LaPolice, Ivy’s owner, for any hand we played in what I’ll call her “expulsion.” Â Did we expect the article to go anywhere? Â Definitely not as far as it did.
Regardless, there is one thought I can’t get out of my head: Out of all the stories we’ve done, this is the one that goes national?
I in no way mean to say that this story was not important, or that the reporting by staff member Eliza Radeka was not excellent. Â As anyone who has been following Ivy’s tale should be able to tell, she has seriously impacted people at our university.
And don’t get me wrong; We are blown away by the attention we’ve received from this article. Â What started with a brief interview that turned into a post from college media scholar Dan Reimold on his blog, College Media Matters, escalated rapidly with retweets from various professional journalists and media commentators, and was eventually picked up nationally by Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post. Â Even Orvis News reiterated the story. (Who knew the clothes brand functioned dually as a news organization?)
As amazed as I am by the national and local attention our work has been getting, as proud as I am for the reporting and editing Radeka and our editorial staff has done, here’s the thing:
We’ve broke stories this year on employee hires, various new campus construction projects and substantial departmental reconstructions among many others. Â We’ve diligently covered tuition increases, arming campus police and humanitarian work by underrepresented community members. Â Of all the stories we’ve stayed up late researching, editing and tracking down sources for, this feel-good feature on a therapy dog is the one the nation wants to read?
It makes sense, I know, that a cute dog gets the clicks. However, my appreciation for the attention Ivy has been getting is substantially dampened by the knowledge of the news many of these dog lovers are missing. Â As I’ve retweeted and reposted from the Cigar’s social media accounts, basking in the fleeting Internet glory we’ve won, I can’t help but wonder to myself if a picture of a cute dog is all it takes to get people to pay attention to news?
I would have traded my iPhone (and as a journalism major, this should tell you I mean what I’m about to say) to get half the attention we’ve gotten on this feature for many of the breaking news and social inequality stories we’ve hunted down this year.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that just because a story does not have a cute dog, does not mean it’s not worth the read. Â I may be biased, but I am of the opinion that if countless people who nationally took the time to read our work on Ivy, to talk to their friends about it or to share the story on social media shared a news story every week, they could instigate more awareness.