Media Continue to Pound on Obesity Coverage
Fast food restaurants are stalking children; Southerners are getting fatter; and the misleading Body Mass Index is back in the news after a football players death.
Obesity hasnt left the medias plate. The release of two new
studies continued the push for more government regulation and hyped
both adult and child obesity statistics. Meanwhile, the death of NFL
player Thomas Herrion caused more uproar about the Body Mass Index,
a controversial measure of obesity that categorizes many athletes
past what the government considers an acceptable weight.
Under the headline
Students walk a minefield, USA Todays Nanci Hellmich reported
on August 24 that fast-food restaurants locating near schools was
a problem. She was covering a study from Septembers American
Journal of Public Health and quoted a Yale University obesity
expert who advocated additional zoning laws to control restaurant
locations. The story went on about the calorie-ridden evils of
kids eating fast food. She gave two paragraphs to Center for
Consumer Freedoms Dan Mindus, the free-market voice on the
subject, whom she labeled as backed by the restaurant and food
industry. However, Hellmich failed to point out two important
points. First, restaurants in a free market locate where they
believe the customers are. Secondly, she did not even raise the
notion of parental involvement when it came to kids eating
NBCs August 24
Today also covered the study, with Matt Lauer declaring the
findings will concern every parent. He said according to the
study, fast food restaurants are contributing to the childhood
obesity epidemic. Carl Quintanillas report followed,
interviewing no one connected with the restaurant industry or
State of obesity
Hellmich addressed a questionable study from the Trust for
Americas Health on August 24. The study said Americans are
getting fatter and ranked the states by percentage of obese
adults. But as Hellmich reported, even the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), an obesity epidemic crusader, took
issue with the statistics used in the study. One CDC researcher
said it was not a valid statistical comparison. The CDCs
Michael Link said the accuracy of the percentages was questionable
because the survey was self-reported, and that many states are
almost identical in their obesity rates, so ranking them is
essentially worthless from a statistical perspective.
reporters, however, embraced the state rankings study. On CNNs
August 24 American Morning, host Soledad OBrien was upset by
the state obesity study. Theyre going to have to sit down and
figure out how theyre going to turn those numbers around, she
said, not indicating who they were. Anchor Carol Costello noted
that Colorado was the slimmest state in the study and said maybe
that was because outdoor activity is really, like, in. Maybe
thats the answer, Costello said.
Over on ABCs Good
Morning America, Kate Snow and Charles Gibson wondered if
Southern cooking was the culprit when they found several
Southern states in the fattest category.
NFL: critical mass?
The Washington Post
devoted more than 2,000 words to the question of professional
football players obesity in the August 25 sports section.
Reporters Mark Maske and Leonard Shapiro wondered whether NFL
players have higher risks of disease because of their size. They
cited a study of NFL players that relied on the Body Mass Index,
which uses height and weight to calculate obesity. Maske and
Shapiro pointed out that the BMI doesnt account for muscle mass,
which is heavy and separates pro athletes from the rest of the
population. They didnt note, however, that the governments
measurements tightened the belt on the BMI in 1998, which caused a
far greater percentage of Americans to appear overweight.