“Just in time for Thanksgiving, turkey prices are up five cents on the pound.”
Substitute the words “gasoline” for “turkey” and “gallon” for “pound,” and you get NBC and CNN’s morning show reports November 20. Neither network mentioned that gas prices were down almost 10 cents from last year’s Thanksgiving or looked at how supply and demand factors were driving prices.
“Gobble, gobble. Gas prices set to take a bigger bite out of your wallet just in time for that drive to Thanksgiving dinner,” teased anchor Matt Lauer in the opening credits to the “Today” show the Monday before Thanksgiving.
News desk anchor Ann Curry echoed Lauer’s line in her 7 a.m. news brief as she noted gasoline prices stood at $2.23, up “about a nickel a gallon” in the latest Lundberg survey, “just in time for Thanksgiving.” Meanwhile, CNN’s Miles O’Brien presented gas prices as “bouncing back just in time for the drive to Thanksgiving dinner” on “American Morning.”
At no point was the small jump in prices connected to rising demand for the holiday – what the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates will be a “robust” travel period this Thanksgiving.
In a November 15 news release, the AAA “estimates that 38.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 2.7 percent increase from last year’s 37.3 million travelers.” Of that number, the vast majority, 31.7 million travelers, will go by car, “a 2.6 percent increase” over last year’s number.
What’s more, the AAA noted, the $2.23-a-gallon gas average is “about nine cents lower than this time last year.”
Journalists often omit supply and demand in gas price reporting, whether the price is going up or down. As the Business & Media Institute documented, O’Brien’s CNN colleague Jack Cafferty pushed conspiratorial views on the downward direction of gas prices before the November elections.
“You know, if you were a real cynic, you could also wonder if the oil companies might not be pulling the price of gas down to help the Republicans get re-elected in the midterm elections a couple of months away,” Cafferty suggested in the August 30 “Situation Room.” Days later on the September 2 “In the Money,” host Cafferty rehashed the theory to the bemusement of the program’s panelists.
“Certainly the thought had crossed my mind. I mean, the oil companies have a vested interest in seeing that the Republicans remain in control” of Congress, the veteran business reporter insisted.