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'A Dog's Purpose' controversy:

by Tori Martinez - Lifestyles Editor

Are Americans media literal?

Wed, Feb 8th 2017 03:15 pm

 It is becoming more apparent how many people can't understand the media they're consuming. This is understandable, considering the people of Donald Trump's administration believe in "alternative facts" and constantly try to degrade and trash talk "the media." Some people don't know what to trust or not trust, and the blame lies on the people in positions of power, but I digress. It's disappointing that our society does not value the importance of media literacy classes. If it was up to me, it would be a requirement in middle and high schools. Why? Because quite a few people in this country can't differentiate between reliable, trustworthy news and fake, sensationalized news. One of the most recent cases of this was the controversy surrounding the new movie "A Dog's Purpose".

TMZ released a video three weeks ago, a little over a week before the movie's premier, showing a trainer "forcibly shoving a German shepherd ... into frothing water." The video ends with a shot of the dog being submerged in water as someone can be heard yelling "cut it" and multiple people swim over to the dog. The video and 222-word article sparked outrage across the nation, causing PETA and animal rights activists to protest and call for a boycott of the movie.

I'll be honest: the video does not look good. The dog obviously does not want to get in the water and the fact that people rush to its aid after it was submerged is a little concerning. Let's dissect the video.

The first 47 seconds of the video shows the dog being forced into the water. There is a cut and the scene of the dog being submerged lasts 11 seconds. Now, we don't know how big the cut between the videos was or if they were even taken on the same day. We have no idea what the circumstance is, other than a dog went under water. People should have questioned this immediately.  What is missing between the separate videos?

The second question: where did this video even come from? The article says "TMZ obtained this video of a scene shot in a pool ... in November 2015." It seems calculated that TMZ would hold onto this video for more than a year, only to release it a week before the movie's premier.

The article is even more problematic. The third paragraph says, "Sources connected to production tell us eight outboard motors were used to churn the water and recreate a rushing river." Okay, what sources said this? The article also acknowledges that "it's unclear if the dog going under was scripted." It is then written that "at least one member of the crew was extremely disturbed by the dog's treatment during this scene." Again, who said this? Who is your source?

One of the biggest warnings that an article cannot be trusted is when a source isn't revealed. Now, there are definitely cases in which a source cannot be revealed, but reputable news organizations such as The New York Times, NPR and The Washington Post always explain why they keep their sources anonymous. One of the first things you learn as a serious journalist is that you always reveal your sources when you can in order to maintain your audience's trust.

Let's not forget the kind of organization TMZ is anyway - it's a tabloid that exploits and dramatizes its content constantly. Why would we trust TMZ to tell us anything worthwhile? This is the same organization who, at the time this article was written, had a headline in all capitals, "DONALD TRUMP: PUTIN'S A KILLER BUT WE ARE, TOO" that was about Trump calling Putin a killer during an interview with Fox News and saying, "There are a lot of killers. We got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country is so innocent?"; who had another headline "SCHWARZENEGGER WANTS TRUMP'S JOB" when Arnold Schwarzenegger made a joke about him and the President switching jobs after Trump criticized the actor's ratings; who uses the word "cuz" instead of "because" in its articles. I mean seriously, this is not a real, trustworthy, professional news organization. It purposefully uses misleading headlines to stir controversy and make people react a certain way. The organization got exactly what it wanted when people all over the country were outraged.

I was not surprised in the slightest when the Associated Press published an article February 4 saying that an independent animal-cruelty expert from The American Humane Association said the video was misleadingly edited and the dog was unharmed. It was "momentarily stressed but suffered no lasting ill effects."

I don't think anyone can expect a dog to see fast-moving, frothy water and want to jump right in. Any dog would be nervous to get in any type water; it doesn't know what's going on. Of course a trainer would have to force it into the water, but that doesn't mean it was violent or harmful.

When reading any article from any news or "news" organizations, always check its sources. If the article doesn't have any or has an anonymous source when it doesn't need one or doesn't explain why it used one, don't trust it. Try to find similar articles from other news sources to prove that the original article you read is true. If you can't find anything, you should probably move on. Also, consider where the news is coming from. Did it come from a tabloid or did it come from The New York Times?

This false scandal that was deliberately created for who knows what reason is proof that people need to learn how to consume and interpret media. If thousands of people across the country can fall for something like this, I'm worried about how easily they will be tricked with something bigger and more important.

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