April 24, 2005

Twits on Tap

Am I just sleep deprived, or does this sound bizarrely irrelevant to you, too?

The anchor was just saying on the King 5 morning news broadcast that Seattle area fuel prices had hit a record high. But hey, AAA has a handy fuel cost calculator that will let you figure out how much a trip of a certain length would cost based on the car you drive. She pointed out that it would cost a smidgen over $300 to drive roundtrip to Los Angeles [from Seattle presumably, for you auslanders] in a Ford Explorer, and only $215 for a roundtrip plane ticket. She helpfully added that the plane trip would only be cheaper if you were going alone.

Would it have killed them to pick an arbitrary number of miles (maybe, say, the average number of miles that a typical Seattle area driver commutes in a week) and comparison vehicles that use the same transportation infrastructure? Now it's going to be bugging me all morning, wondering wtf was going through their heads when they wrote that piece.

Posted by natasha at April 24, 2005 07:32 AM | WA News & Trivia | Technorati links |

Ah, but then we would just know how much running that Navigator actually costs from Kent to the Eastside, or somesuch typical commte. And all those Puuallup to downtown Seattle people would start having heart attacks, and, well, they can't afford the lawsuits, can they?

I agree - dumb, dumb, dumb.

Posted by: palamedes at April 24, 2005 09:30 AM

TV broadcasters derive a hefty portion of their income advertizing cars. The SUV has the highest profit margin for new vehicles. The news broadcast management defends their paychecks and serves the interests of their advertizers by coercing the SUV buyer into justifying a motoring vacation because it's cheaper than flying.

Try explaining the latest Ford Expedition TV ads; there are two of them. A BMX bicylist loses control and the bike flies off a mountain hillside and crashes onto a road. The nimble Expedition is able to swerve around the wrecked bike. An old Ford Econoline van is pulling a trailer of canoes which breaks loose and rolls down toward the main highway with the hippy owners in chase. The Expedition is pulling a classic motor yacht and avoids a crash with powerful accelleration.

The psychology of these ads is to demean the bicyle, the canoe and their users, specifically for the buyer who entertains that viewpoint. The Big 3 automakers are making a last ditch effort to squeeze profits from a failing product.

Posted by: Artie at April 25, 2005 11:47 AM

Seattle talking heads (which produced such dwarf stars as Aaron Brown and John Seigenthaler) know nothing of journalism. Their purpose is to get it on the air with the most flash and fire they can. The old TV news adage: "If it bleeds, it leads" couldn't be more apropos here in Seattle.

KIRO(7) and King(5) are the worst, KOMO(4) tries too hard and comes up short most of the time. The news directors should be held personally and financially liable for every word that gets broadcast.

It's ridiculous! The state that produced Edward R. Murrow has nothing to show for it.

There is NO fact checking, no multiple sources, they rely far too much on rumor and supposition, their story boards could have been copied directly from the Enquirer or the Weekly World News, I could go on and on.

And Geez Louise, you tune in the news and they stare back at you with those dead vapid blank grins - where did we get these people? - Mattel?

Posted by: David Aquarius at April 25, 2005 05:54 PM

I guess I am not getting your point. Are there alternative means of transportation to the automobile where you live? Down here in Phoenix you have to walk to a bus stop - whether or not the weather is unmerciful as it is from mid-June to late September - and wait on it and subsequent connections to get places.

Don't tell me some of your neighbors in the northwest need a news report to tell them that $2.50/gal gas costs two and a half times as much as $1.00/gal gas. Do folks need to be told that vehicles that get 30 mpg get better gas mileage than vehicles that get 15 mpg and that the implied cost ratio is the same whether they travel 200 miles in a week or 400 miles?

How about a report on the short run price inelasticity of gas demand but the short run changes in the new and used market for fuel efficient cars and gas guzzlers?

What might be more suited to a blog post than a snippet in broadcast news would be a discussion of the costs of alternative transportation systems and city planning standards - ah, if we all were young, healthy and lived on campus. Again, for most people, for most purposes of local travel, there are no alternative means of tranportation to the automobile they presently own for work commutes, shopping and socializing.

That poor pooch.

Posted by: CMike at April 26, 2005 09:52 AM

CMike - "I guess I am not getting your point."

My point is that it was a bogglingly stupid thing to have a news segment about. It would be somewhat less dumb to have compared the prices of filling up different cars because as much as people complain about how much they pay at the pump, I doubt they go around tallying up in their head how much they might save if they had a different car. It could theoretically get people thinking about what they want to do when it's time to trade in the car. In case you hadn't noticed, there are an awful lot of things people could stand a little prompting to think about, because they've really got enough on their minds.

See the discussion above about why our local news poodles are unlikely to have any type of segment that requires the term 'inelasticity' in order to explain the central concept.

You know what's suitable for a blog post? Whatever I want to talk about. I try to keep it from degenerating, but this isn't my job, it's a hobby. Frankly, some days I got nothin' better than to mock newscasters, and researching alternate transportation systems is a little too time consuming for me this week. And btw, I'm a 30ish returning student and I don't live on campus.

Posted by: natasha at April 26, 2005 11:18 AM

When I bought a townhouse in San Jose in the late 90's, the salesman told me that many couples were having trouble qualifying for loans because they had huge loans out on new SUV's. I had paid off my '91 car, which gets 35mpg on the highway, and had no trouble getting a loan. I'm still driving that car.

Posted by: PhilW at April 27, 2005 02:08 PM

Even stupider is the fact that news organizations are completely refusing to investigate the underlying reasons behind high oil and gas prices, instead pretty much relying on the oil companies version of what is going on. Of course, them telling the truth about Peak Oil would not be helpful to stock prices or their profits.

Posted by: Roy Smith at April 29, 2005 09:28 AM