Gas Prices Falling, but Where Are the Stories?

     Gas prices are declining, but you wouldn’t know that by watching network news.


     The May 30 edition of the USA Today reported gas prices were dropping according to two major indicators – the Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) Gas prices are down nearly a penny according to the EIA and 2.6 cents according to AAA.


     That isn’t getting reported by many of the major media outlets as they cover fuel prices. In a segment on NBC’s “Today” on May 30, host Meredith Vieira led into a Matt Lauer interview of ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva. She compared gasoline price per gallon from a month ago and a year ago to the latest AAA numbers. There was no mention of any decline.


     In the Lauer interview, Mulva suggested heightened gas prices were a result of heightened demand and lowered supply. Yet, Lauer never revealed gas prices had begun to decline.


     This was typical. In the last several days during the decline, doom and gloom has been the focal point of media coverage.  ABC’s “Good Morning America” went into the holiday weekend by airing a two-part series on the hardships of gas prices over last Thursday and Friday.


     “Today's high gas prices aren't just annoying, they're ruining vacations,” said ABC Correspondent Jessica Yellin during the first of the two parts.


     Yellin accompanied the Stembergers, a family of five, on a summer road trip from Orlando to Cashiers, N.C. Along the way, Yellin totaled the costs for each stop – itemizing and compiling expenses for food, milk and gasoline.


     But, at a stop in Gainesville, Fla., the husband John Stemberger paid $26.88 for 7.810 gallons of gas (as shown on the camera at the gas pump) – coming out to be $3.44 a gallon. A quick search for gas prices in the last 36 hours in Gainesville, Fla. indicated the price per gallon ranged from $3.08 to $3.31 a gallon. Even on Friday, the $3.44 per gallon price tag was way beyond what the national average was.


     “There may come a point where people might not travel anymore, but luckily for us we’re not at that point yet,” Stemberger said.


     The mainstream news media have had an infatuation with the coverage of higher gas prices.  However, this is just an example of one of the many instances that the news media have dramatized the hardship caused by gas prices and exaggerated increases.


     CBS outperformed the other networks in that Business & Media Institute study, chiefly by relying on expert comments from Tom Kloza, of the Oil Price Information Service, who took a less hyped approach to prices. USA Today’s piece followed that example and also relied on Kloza.