Both CBS “Evening News” and ABC “World News with Charles Gibson” reported that the national average price for gasoline was “just two cents short of the record.”
But the networks’ two cents were wrong.
Gasoline prices, which both programs said were at $3.05 per gallon for regular, are still 17 cents shy of the inflation-adjusted record high price from March 1981: $3.22 per gallon.
Misreporting the record was just one of the ways the two programs hyped “sky-high” gasoline prices on May 7.
CBS’s business correspondent Anthony Mason interviewed a Staten Island man named Mike Gorgia, who regularly tracks his area’s gas prices for GasBuddy.com and reported that he saves $500 a year by shopping around for his gasoline.
Wait a minute.
The average American uses 500 gallons  of gasoline each year, according to the Energy Information Administration. So if Gorgia is a reasonable example, he must be shaving a full dollar off the cost of each gallon in order to save $500.
But Mason’s report indicated Gorgia isn’t saving a dollar per gallon: the largest per-gallon price difference mentioned in the report was 30 cents a gallon. So this man has to be driving more than three times the national average of 12,000 miles per year  in order to save $500.
And Gorgia isn’t making up those miles on his 10-mile roundtrip commute.
To do the quick math that Mason clearly did not do: Gorgia drives roughly 2,600 miles back and forth to work in a year. To save as much as he claimed, he’d have to drive about 34,900 extra miles in his free time. That’s the rough equivalent to driving back and forth from New York City to Los Angeles 14 times.
“World News” also hyped gasoline prices on May 7. ABC’s Dean Reynolds didn’t see rising prices peaking soon, even though he quoted an expert who said they would likely peak after Memorial Day.
“It’s hard to say when the breaking point will come or whether it will even come anytime soon,” declared Reynolds.
Reynolds also stated, “For the first time, gasoline selling for $4 a gallon does not seem so farfetched.”
That May 7 prediction was hardly the first time a network journalist has warned about $4-a-gallon or higher gas prices to come. Tomorrow, May 9, the Business & Media Institute will release an analysis of gas prices stories beginning Jan. 1, 2005, that looks at the number of $4, $5 and even $6-a-gallon claims made by the network news media.