Disclaimer: This post isn’t exactly about science. It is more about the media. And cats. Lots of ‘em. So, really, it is a meta-post because it exhibits exactly what I am about to talk about. Intrigued? Keep reading.
I am a cat lover and pretty much everyone knows it.
My fellow Raptor Lab bloggers understand this and send me “daily cat” photos, articles and videos. My cat, Zizou Hirji, has played a central role in my science-writing career. In fact, during graduate school I made a video about my cat and how he has asthma, co-created with Variable’s Hannah Cheng and guest videographer Sarah Yu. I have also taken on a steady number of cat-related topics as assignments over the years, such as cheetah sex, cat stripes and endangered tigers.
But as a follower of both silly, legitimate feline news and everything in between, I started noticing a curious trend: cat coverage is transcending the social media world and leaking into traditional hard news sources, such as the Washington Post, The Hill and Mother Jones.
I define “silly” cat news as videos, gifs, and photos of cats being cute or funny or mean or whatever. Buzzfeed is a trailblazer is silly cat content. YouTube is another major sink for cat material (here is a real gem), as is Reddit.
“Real” cat news is a broader category and here are some examples: In late August, a New York City train was stopped because a kitty was on the tracks; following the incident, the city’s mayoral candidates were asked to comment on the incident; at the beginning of the year, a study revealed that an alarmingly high number of birds and other small critters were killed by hungry house cats each year; and Iran has upcoming plans to send a persian kitty into space.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered Kevin Drum, a political blogger for Mother Jones, posting “Friday Cat Blogging.” In these weekly posts, Drum offers pictures and vignettes expounding on his two cats. Drum proudly describes himself as “inventor of Friday catblogging” on his Mother Jones profile.
The Washington Post is also getting in on the cat lovin’ bandwagon. In fact, this was the very subject of a blog post by reporter Joe Achenbach at the Washington Post last week. His October 11 blog post is titled “A shout-out to cats” and offers a round-up of cat news, from famous kitties to cat science to asking for cat photos.
I think all this cat mania had lead to related trend: cat news generally reserved for cat bloggers and animals magazines are seeping into other news sources. For example, Washington capital-news source, The Hill, wrote a story about how kitty lovers countrywide wanted Obama to get a cat.
And then there is the fact that covering cats is a journalism beat. The Atlantic has eaten this up, posting stories about why cats are cool or who is looking at cat stuff (like this one).
Finally, there is the increasingly popular trend of using cats as a hook or a reference in an otherwise unrelated story. For example, I recently managed to squeeze in a cat reference in an InsideClimate News article about hurricanes and climate change. Why? Cause I could.
In summary, cats have migrated into more and more news stories these days. The more we seem to talk about them (and idolize them), the more relevant it is to reference and use them in any story, from space to climate to the White House.
And I, for one, am okay with it.
Zahra Hirji is seriously considering joining the Friday cat blogging boat. Everyone in support of this idea should tweet at her @zhirji28 with #givein.