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Free Market Project

3/7/2006 12:49:30 AM

Updated 02/24/06

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Gas Hysteria
More Media Go Drilling for Viewers
CBS, ABC launch new features on gas prices. Reporter Axelrod shows he’s going the wrong way.

By Dan Gainor
August 23, 2005

     The media continued a full-court press on gas prices thanks to a 6-cent increase per gallon. Here are some of the latest high and low points:

  • If you say something often enough: USA Today’s Chris Woodyard joined the ‘record’-setting crowd of journalists intent on ignoring basic economics. According to Woodyard’s August 23 article, “the average price of gasoline rose 6.2 cents last week to a record average of $2.612 a gallon.” The August 22 broadcast of “CBS Evening News” showed anchor John Roberts making the same mistake. He didn’t just mention it, he underscored it. “And now, 83 cents later, Americans are paying the highest price that we have ever paid,” Roberts said. Two of the August 23 morning shows followed suit. Kate Snow, of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” joined the crowd saying: “new record gas prices. Apparently driving some people to desperate measures.” The “Early Show’s” Hannah Storm chimed in with “This morning, another record high.”
  • ‘Another big jump’: According to Roberts, a 6-cent increase is “another big jump.” A 6-cent change on a gallon of gas represents roughly a 2-percent rise. Hardly a “big jump.”
  • Holy bleep!: “CBS Evening News” brought some levity to the issue with its new “Cross-Country Price Patrol.” Reporter Jim Axelrod was traveling from New York to San Francisco. On the first leg of his journey, he showed that he didn’t know where he was going with the story. Talking while he was driving, Axelrod said the following: “We know what kind of crazy drivers plague the streets in Manhattan. The recent spike in the price of gas has made going to the pump ... I'm going the wrong way! Holy [bleep].”
  • Americans understand: Despite the media beating the drum of “record highs,” Americans seem to understand that gas prices are inconvenient, not life-changing. According to “GMA’s” Snow, “Americans are predicted to hit the road in record numbers over the Labor Day weekend.”
  • ‘Over A Barrel’: ABC’s “World News Tonight” didn’t want to be left out. The broadcast included its own series on gas prices and how to emphasize them in the scariest way possible. According to reporter David Muir, “This time last year, the average cost of a gallon of gas was $1.88, and that was high.” Muir didn’t explain why $1.88 was “high” or who had claimed that was the case.
  • What next?: At the end of the ABC “Over A Barrel” report, anchor Charles Gibson warned about the next report: “Tomorrow, for our series, what the government can do about the price of gas. And what the impact might be.” The question is, will ABC mention that government should have no role in price control?


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