It’s like clockwork. Gas prices have fallen, and so has network news coverage of them. This direct correlation between prices and coverage has caused news of gas prices to essentially disappear in the past week.
The latest Lundberg Survey of fuel prices, released on July 12, showed that gas prices have fallen more than 10 cents over the past two weeks. However, in keeping with the warped coverage of gas prices, the largest drop in prices since December went unreported by all major network morning shows except NBC’s “Today Show”, and even this was hidden away in the hourly news reports.
Perhaps Americans have lost interest in gas prices, and therefore networks now fail to find the topic newsworthy. If that’s the case, the public must have changed its mind since mid-June when, with prices on the rise, coverage was extensive.
“CBS Morning News” reported on June 17 that “Widespread unemployment is stopping companies from raising prices for fear of losing cash-strapped customers, but not at the gas station. Gas prices have risen every day for the past month and a half.”
On June 16 ABC’s Bianna Golodryga commented, “We've seen gas prices go up 60 percent since hitting their lows back in December. Oil prices have more than doubled since,” as she led into a story on the effects of gas prices on the economy.
Yet ABC, and all networks, failed to report the effect that a fall in gas prices has on the economy. $1 billion returns to US consumers for every penny gas prices fall. This means that in the past two weeks American consumers received $10 billion back due to the 10 cent-price decrease, one of the few promising statistics in these hard economic times, but one overlooked by the mainstream media.
The “Today Show” was also part of the media hype of rising gas prices. Kevin Tibbles took a bleak look at gas prices on June 15, saying, “just when you thought it was safe to bundle the kids in the car and plan that cheap, economical, recession-proof summer driving holiday, think again.”
Tibbles interviewed average gas buyers, none of whom gave any explanation for the rising prices. Instead, he got predictable claims not backed by facts, such as “They say it’s supply and demand, but it's more like they just want to get more money.”
Like most reporters who make gas price predictions, Tibbles turned out to be a lousy prophet. “So watch out, America,” he said. “Three-dollar gas nationwide may be coming over the horizon.”
With the national average now at $2.55, it would be nice to see him revisit gas prices and amend his prophesy.