Sometimes a story is covered accurately by the regional press, only for the national media to step in and distort it to suit a particular media narrative. However, on other occasions the local press are just of guilty of terrible journalism as their national rivals. Today’s example is this story in the Daily Mail: ‘Royal Mail bans deliveries to an entire street over ‘menace’ Jack Russell‘ [istyosty.com link]. The Daily Mail article is quite short, but it makes the ‘facts’ clear:
Don’t let his doleful eyes and soggy whiskers fool you.
For this is the face of a cold-blooded terror, hellbent on tearing chunks from any stranger who dares tread his precious driveway… or so Royal Mail would have you believe.
Meet Rusty the Jack Russell, whose squeaky yap strikes fear into the heart of postal workers throughout Plymouth, in Devon.
He is so fearsome that post chiefs have now banned all door-to-door deliveries to his entire street – after tried to nip one terrified postie.
Barely the size of a cat, Rusty has been branded ‘an unacceptable hazard’ to staff.
They don’t give the Royal Mail a chance to respond – other than quoting a short passage from the letter sent to the dog-owner – and the story seems to be a classic case of churnalism (churnalism.com shows that other newspapers have also picked up the story).
So, a quick Google search finds the original story: ‘Royal Mail stops deliveries to Plymouth street after attack bid by Jack Russell‘, published by This is Plymouth. So, it appears that the Daily Mail article – ‘written’ by Matt Blake – is accurate inasmuch as it faithfully copies the angle put forward by This is Plymouth. However, here we have to accuse Matt Blake of being guilty of one of two things:
- He read the This is Plymouth article in full, and left out all of the facts that made this story completely wrong.
- He didn’t read the whole story and instead just copied and pasted a few bits before adding lots of fluff about how crazy it is for postmen to be afraid of a tiddly-widdly little dog.
So, Matt Blake is either at best a merely incompetent journalist or at worst a deeply dishonest one. Anyone reading the original story will see that it is a terrible piece of journalism in which the headline is completely misleading. Firstly, yes it does appear that Rusty the Jack Russell had bitten a postwoman:
Police said they have received one report of a Jack Russell attempting to bite a postwoman on Newman Road in Saltash on March 24 – and the street’s mail being suspended.
However, the owner of Rusty admits something else (not covered by the Mail):
Karen said the action comes after problems with Mia. She had ripped a postman’s trousers several months ago, but has since been chained up in their back garden, said Karen.
She added that police and a dog warden visited the house on Thursday and warned them to restrain Rusty as well, or face the animals being taken away. [Emphasis is mine]
‘Mia’ is a Rottweiler – and the family also own a German Shepherd as well. So, although the Royal Mail admit that ‘The dog attacked the postman on the 24th of March and we have now suspended deliveries to the whole of Newman Road’, they also make it clear that ‘The suspension of mail deliveries is a last resort’ and that this ‘This exceptional step has been taken in order to safeguard Royal Mail employees’. The idea that it is a last resort is that they have tried to speak to family to get them to control their dogs, the family has failed and that this last bite from the Jack Russell was the point at which the Royal Mail has had to take this action. It is interesting to see that the owner blames the action on the Rottweiler’s bite, rather than the Jack Russell. It is made clear that this is the case by the owner:
[Karen] added that police and a dog warden visited the house on Thursday and warned them to restrain Rusty as well, or face the animals being taken away. [Emphasis is mine]
Interestingly on the original article are lots of comments from residents of the area siding with the action taken by Royal Mail – as well as lots of criticism of the article – Newman Road is in Saltash, Cornwall, not Plymouth, Devon for one. This one comment sums it up:
So, a family that the Daily Mail would normally describe as ‘feral’ and bad, suddenly becomes OK because they fit into the narrative that the Royal Mail will stop deliveries given the slightest excuse because they’re part of the evil public sector. Not that the Royal Mail are responding to irresponsible dog-owners, much as any Mail reader would ordinarily support.