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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Volume 8, Number 20

Kudos... to FNCís William La Jeunesse

If the government says so, it must be true. At least that appears to be the operating assumption at CBS News, which three times last month parroted the findings of a federal regulatory agency without offering any of the "context and perspective" that anchor Dan Rather so often brags is a crucial element of his Evening News.
"Your government wants you to know the latest incarnation of the old scooter can be dangerous," Rather relayed in introducing a report by CBSís Jim Axelrod on the September 5 broadcast about accidents on those new two-wheeled scooters.

"According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, injuries from scooter accidents are up 700 percent since May," Axelrod alarming stated, punching the "700 percent" for emphasis. "There were more last month than all of last year, and 90 percent of scooter accidents are suffered by kids younger than 15."

The same report was re-played for viewers of the CBS Morning News on September 6, and anchors Thalia Assuras and Russ Mitchell brought the CPSC report once again on the September 9 edition of The Saturday Early Show ó "a government warning about a fad thatís sending thousands of kids to the emergency room," warned Assuras, before repeating the claim that "scooter-related injuries are up 700 percent since May."

In sharp contrast to his CBS brethren, Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse approached the government report with a skeptical eye. "Whatís more dangerous, bikes or blades, skateboards or scooters?" La Jeunesse asked in his story, shown on The Fox Report on September 13. "Last week, the government seemed to answer the question, scaring the public by suggesting Americaís hottest new fad is unsafe."

"But what the government and most media didnít give you is context," La Jeunesse continued. "Yes, scooter injuries are up 700 percent. Well, duh. Basically, a year ago [holds up scooter] these things didnít exist; there were no injuries. Now, they expect to sell five million by Christmas."

Axelrod never checked the rate of injury for the scooters with other self-propelled toys that kids use, but La Jeunesse did. "According to the Consumer Product Safety Commissionís own statistics, more kids are injured on bikes, roller blades and skateboards than scooters."

La Jeunesse wrapped up by summarizing the advice of a bike store own he interviewed: "His advice: wear pads and a helmet. It might protect your child, your wallet, and all of us from more government regulation."

To be sure, the CPSC report did not include a specific recommendation for additional regulation, but reports such as the one released last month are frequently presented by the media as examples of the types of danger created by businesses offering new or untested products, and are often seized upon by politicians who promote regulation or legislation as a way to "protect" consumers from the free market. Kudos to Fox Newsís William La Jeunesse, for exposing the fact that this scare story was more based on selective statistics than on a genuine threat to the nationís children.

ó Rich Noyes


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