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USA Today Falsely Claims Record Price of Gasoline


USA Today Falsely Claims Record Price of Gasoline
But years ago when prices climbed, the media sometimes adjusted for inflation to show gas prices werent really all that high.

By Ken Shepherd
Business & Media Institute
June 7, 2006

     Either Its All Been Done by the Barenaked Ladies or The Four Tops Same Old Song could be the soundtrack for the medias recurring errors in gas price reporting. But CNN sang a different tune when rising gas prices were in the news near the end of the Clinton presidency, allowing an adjustment for inflation to put prices in perspective.

     Although gasoline prices will likely dip a bit in the near-term, families hitting the road this summer will still pay record prices at the pump, wrote USA Todays Barbara Hagenbaugh in the June 7 paper, becoming the latest reporter to sing the medias refrain on gas prices.

     That expected record price, 2.76 a gallon over the April-September summer period is less than last years post-Katrina high of $3.07-a-gallon and, when adjusted for inflation, comes far short of the $3.12-a-gallon that motorists would have to pay to meet the record set in 1981.

     Even if you take out volatile price spikes to look at a running weekly average, the expected average price runs 18 cents shy of the inflation-adjusted annual average of $2.94 during gas shortages in 1980, according to inflationdata.com.

     The media havent always done a bad job on this issue. Six years ago, when a CNN poll found two out of every five Americans finding gas prices to be a hardship, that networks Web page posted a story putting prices in perspective.

     Asking if gas prices were really that high, in an article posted on March 14, 2000, CNN staff writers noted that the average price of gasoline now is up to $1.54, higher than the $1.38 average in 1981. But that 1981 price of $1.38 translates to $2.29.

     In short, concluded the report, Current gasoline prices are not at record levels, not even close. Whats more, the fact that Americans keep buying gas-guzzling automobiles would seem to argue that gas prices are not that high after all.

     The Business & Media Institute has written on the medias faulty coverage of oil and gasoline prices, even extending well before Hurricane Katrinas impact on the oil market.