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Networks Complain of ‘Record-High’ Oil That Isn’t
But reporters for The Washington Post, USA Today put prices in perspective.

By Ken Shepherd
Business & Media Institute
April 18, 2006

Send this page to a friend! (click here)     Sounding like a broken record, the evening newscasts for ABC, CBS, and NBC complained of “record” oil prices. But adjusted for inflation, oil prices are still $14 below the record high set at the end of the Carter presidency.

     “We’ll take a closer look” at the “ripple effect” on consumer prices, as “oil hits a record high,” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased at the opening of the April 17 “World News Tonight.”

     Meanwhile “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams called the $70.40-per-barrel closing price on oil the “highest closing price ever recorded,” surpassing prices from “the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.”

     While ABC and NBC carried full stories on oil and gasoline prices, CBS’s Bob Schieffer dispatched the story in a single comment: “Well, here we go again. Oil prices set a new record today,” he complained.

     Where their broadcast colleagues erred, print journalists gave a more accurate picture. Oil prices hit their all-time high in January 1981, USA Today’s James Healey reported in the April 18 paper. “The Monday high is not a record if inflation is taken into account. That peak is the equivalent of $86.99 in today’s dollars,” Healey said, citing data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

     The Washington Post’s Steven Mufson also noted in his April 18 article that “oil prices are still below their historical highs” when accounting for inflation.