What The Media Tell
Americans About Free Enterprise
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
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
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.
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