‘When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.” This aphorism has been attributed to several barely remembered titans of the newspaper industry (partisans of Charles Dana, Alfred Harmsworth, and John Bogart can duke it out in the letters-to-the-editor round file).
This saying used to annoy my late father to no end. A longtime news-syndicate editor, he simply knew that it wasn’t true. Here’s an excerpt from an e-mail he sent me on the subject over a decade ago (my father sent me scads of e-mails on everything from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the Talmud to the innate superiority of basset hounds):