PS: Political Science & Politics


What’s a Dog Story Worth?

Matthew D. Atkinsona1, Maria Deama2 and Joseph E. Uscinskia3

a1 University of California, Los Angeles

a2 University of Miami

a3 University of Miami


Journalists consider the importance of events and the audience’s interest in them when deciding on which events to report. Events most likely to be reported are those that are both important and can capture the audience’s interest. In turn, the public is most likely to become aware of important news when some aspect of the story piques their interest. We suggest an efficacious means of drawing public attention to important news stories: dogs. Examining the national news agenda of 10 regional newspapers relative to that of the New York Times, we evaluated the effect of having a dog in a news event on the likelihood that the event is reported in regional newspapers. The “dog effect” is approximately equivalent to the effect of whether a story warrants front- or back-page national news coverage in the New York Times. Thus, we conclude that dogs are an important factor in news decisions.

Matthew D. Atkinson is a research associate at the Center for the Study of Campaigns, University of California, Los Angeles. He can be reached at

Maria Deam is a graduate of the University of Miami.

Joseph E. Uscinski is an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami and can be reached at