Media Rely on Stories That Are 'Bad for You'

     Don’t eat that! It doesn’t even matter what it is, somewhere someone on network news shows is probably telling you it’s “bad for you.”

     If you believe them, almost everything meets that requirement. Caffeine. Sugar. Cereal. Meat. Alcohol. The list doesn’t even stop at food and drink. Gambling, stress, chemicals – even too much work – are all demons of modern life.

     Face it, life is just dyin’ to get you.

     And the news media are trying to save you from yourself. Network newsies act like they want to wrap America in one giant mountain of bubble wrap – protected from all potential harm – or having a life.

     Lately, they’ve been guarding us against trans fats, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. We are supposed to join in the media celebration that KFC is cutting these menu monsters – what ABC anchor Charles Gibson called “another giant step in the movement to make America’s food healthier.”

     Forget that trans fats make food tastier and last longer. Let’s remember that trans fats were jammed down our throats after left-wing complaints about a previous food bad guy – “saturated fats.” The media warned us about that one as well.

     But that’s OK because food is the new enemy of these self-appointed Guardians of All that is Good (GAG). On the October 30 “NBC Nightly News,” that network’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, compared obesity to smoking and asbestos. “I think fat is the new tobacco,” she told anchor Brian Williams.

     That’s certainly the message legions of food industry critics and self-appointed do-gooders are sending. Eat right or we’ll sue every food maker in the world and put them out of business. Then you’ll have no choice. In New York, they want to mandate the elimination of trans fats. In Chicago it’s foie gras, or goose liver, whose goose is cooked.

     Frito Lay – the maker of Doritos – swallowed the crazy message and now wants to make everyone GAG. USA Today said that the company “is adding a line of better-for-you chips to the trend of snacks made with real fruits and veggies.”


     It’s an idea so ludicrous that the product line is called, appropriately, “Flat Earth.” Online comedians at the Onion wrote a scathingly humorous story about Frito Lay unveiling the new “food.” The Onion depicted Frito Lay President Al Carey angrily introducing the new product saying, “Mmm, dehydrated bulb things. Sounds delicious.”

     It is difficult to distinguish the real USA Today report from the fake Onion story – except in the fake, Carey admits few people really want to eat the new chips.

     Perhaps would-be snackers could wash down the chips with coffee – if the networks could agree whether that’s OK. On June 27, both ABC and CBS did stories on the positives of coffee. On CBS, Dr. Emily Senay admitted how the pendulum moves back and forth on the popular beverage by saying “it’s good for you, it’s bad for you.” That morning it was all good.

     According to ABC’s John McKenzie, “Daily cups of coffee have been linked to a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, gallstones and especially, Type 2 diabetes.”

     But back in June, “Good Morning America” combined attacks on coffee and Starbucks by brewing up a story that compared the drink to drugs. Correspondent Elizabeth Leamy explained “many customers love their regular dose.”

     By October, CBS’s “Early Show” co-host Rene Syler once again warned viewers of the “shocking news” that decaf has some caffeine.

     Film at 11.

     Our regular dose of media misgivings is OK with journalists. It’s not that they mean to do us harm. Quite the contrary. The GAG reflex is to protect everyone from everything. The November 13 USA Today actually included this headline: “The debate is growing: Is being short a disability?”

     They weren’t joking. The GAGgle has so convinced Americans that everything must be fixed, guarded against or removed. Some poor parents are obsessing over the height of their children and are inflicting growth hormone on them. That can cost up to $100,000 to gain little more than an inch in height.

     Early in November, NBC’s “Today” show did a long story with the authors of “The Complete Organic Pregnancy” that warned of danger in everything from sofas and mattresses to non-stick cookware and shower curtains. An “organic” pregnancy is so threatened by the outside world that it must have been produced under a microscope.

     That’s appropriate for the next generation in this sad and scared society we live in. The media want us living under that microscope for the rest of our lives – afraid to take any risk or eat anything unhealthy. And unable to decide for ourselves.

     “Flat Earth” fruit chip, anyone?

Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.