There's a journalistic adage that a dog biting a man isn't news.
But what about when a dog bites an abortion opponent?
I'm being facetious.
However, a canine chomping his teeth into a 24-year-old law student is just one of the revealing details in the New York Times' recent front-page story on Indiana anti-abortion canvassers. More on the dog bite (fortunately, the victim has a sense of humor about it) in a moment.
First, though, the big picture: This concise, nicely told feature by religion writer Elizabeth Dias goes behind the scenes of what the Times characterizes as "the Ground Game to Reverse Roe v. Wade."
The talented Dias does an exceptional job of painting what feels, to me, like an authentic picture of these activists:
AVON, Ind. — Armed with sunscreen, doorknob fliers and a mission 50 years in the making, the team of activists sporting blue “I Vote Pro-Life” T-shirts fanned out into a web of cul-de-sacs in a subdivision just west of Indianapolis, undeterred by towering rain clouds and 90-degree heat.
It was exactly a week after President Trump had named Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to be his nominee for the Supreme Court, and the group was joking that they had a new sport: Extreme Canvassing.
In short surveys, the teams ask voters about their hopes for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation and their opposition to abortion funding. Canvassers have knocked at nearly 1.2 million homes nationwide in recent months, and by November, they are slated to reach their goal of 2 million.
“Whenever I’m feeling tired, I say, ‘I’m doing it for the babies,’” said Kaiti Shannon, 19, as she consulted a mobile app to determine which porch with wind chimes to approach.
The best newspaper writers have an ear for the A-plus quote that — in just a few words — tells the entire story.
"I'm doing it for the babies" certainly fits that criteria, as evidenced by the fact that the Times used it in the online headline.
Keep reading, and Dias shows her impartiality by quoting abortion rights supporters who put their spin on the opponents. And she also offers important context on the various cases winding their way through the judicial system that possibly could prompt the high court, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, to reconsider Roe v. Wade.
But mostly, Dias focuses on the canvassers and opens a window into their world. I'll resist the urge to copy and paste all the excellent anecdotes.
However, I will share this crucial section (spoiler alert: look for a dog bite):
As the canvassers dodged sprinklers in the Indiana suburbs, it was clear they saw their role as more than just a job for which they are paid $10 an hour: Many said they have opposed abortion most of their lives.
Joey Kurucz, 24, a law school student who has knocked on 2,600 Indiana doors, told the story of talking with voters in June when a dog bit his side, leaving a scar. He continued to shout questions at the owner from the safety of a neighbor’s lawn. “They were pro-life!” he recalled with a smile.
Debra Minott, 62, said she spends 15 minutes every morning in silent prayer, asking for an end to abortion. She decided to go door-to-door five months ago, after regretting that she had not done more for the cause earlier in her life.
“I sometimes pick the worst days to go out, when it is so hot, because I want people to remember that I came to the door to advocate for life,” Ms. Minott said, as she tucked a flier under a doormat.
Instead, I urge you to read this story and appreciate the fair, impartial manner in which Dias and the Times presented it.
Now, if only such stories on this issue weren't so man-bites-dog infrequent ...