CNN’s headline: “Bidens’ dog Major involved in another biting incident,” but the story quotes the first lady’s press secretary as saying, “Major nipped someone on a walk.” So there doesn’t seem to be any need to obscure the identify of the biter. I find the uncritical use of “biting incident” a bit troubling.
All suspects are innocent until proven guilty — even suspects whose actions are caught on video and seem obviously guilty to anyone who sees it.
Major is of course a dog but because human suspects have rights, journalists are trained not to assume guilt when they report:
Joe Smith, while driving drunk, killed a pedestrian last night.
Journalists should instead just report verifiable facts:
Joe Smith was arrested at the scene of a fatal one-car accident and has been charged with DWI and manslaughter.
Unlike TV cop shows, where the camera shows someone taking aim at someone else, then cuts to that person squeezing the trigger, then cuts to the target crumpling, it’s not always clear in the immediate aftermath of a shooting who got shot by whom. Cops have been killed by shots fired by other cops, or by themselves. The same goes for suspects.
Having said all this, “biting incident” echoes “shooting incident,” which suggests CNN’s normalization of the abstract language often found in police reports. It should be possible to report accurately, but neutrally, without adopting tabloid language that sensationalizes or abstract language that obscures violent police actions.
I hope there’s some sense of self-satire in this story, because “dog bites man” is the standard example of a story that is not newsworthy because it happens all the time (as compared to “man bites dog,” which is unusual). The fact that it was the Bidens’ dog (note that the headline uses a possessive plural — it’s not just the president’s dog) makes the story marginally newsworthy.