Thursday, April 05, 2007

Business gets the best of the news

Last Thursday, both The New York Times and The Oregonian ran a story about a Kaiser Family Foundation study showing how TV targets kids with junk food ads that contribute to the alarming rise in childhood obesity.

Gosh, parents might want to know about the study. It serves as further incentive to get a handle on kids' TV and junk food consumption. (Hint: TV Turnoff Week is coming up April 23-29)

So where might they expect to find the story in the newspaper? In the Times' health section? In The Oregonian's "Living" section?

Fat chance.

Both papers put it in the business section. The Oregonian simply ran an AP story devoid of local reporting, although childhood nutrition is a hot issue in the state legislature and plenty of health experts here would happily comment on the Kaiser study.

The Times business-section story's headline fell under the "advertising" label. The story consisted of a back and forth between a Kaiser Family Foundation official and food and advertising industry "spokespeople." The industry mouthpieces dismissed the 2005 study as being "dated" and insisted that the food industry has been cleaning up its act. Kaiser countered that the study would serve as a "base-line" to measure any alleged industry reform.

If you want to see how "dated" the study is and whether there has been a change, check out the ads on the Saturday morning cartoon fare. (By the way, in Scandinavian countries, ALL TV advertising to children is prohibited. My own view is that ads aimed at kids are nothing less than predatory.)

At the very least, newspapers should put stories about TV stuffing harmful ads down the throats of our kids where the stories belong—in front of parents.

I learned a long time ago that much of the best "intelligence" on what is going on in this country is the exclusive domain of the business press. Pick up The Wall Street Journal or read trade publications and you'll see what I mean.

So Calvin Coolidge's adage, "The business of America is business," has a corollary: the real news of America is business news.

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Blogger PDX Papa said...

the power of the media to influence the angle of the article is huge, but you already know this... there are so many opportunities to help improve our communities, and indeed, our earth... where to begin? (actually, if you have any more of those TV-b-gones :) I think that this post draws attention to one of the most pressing issues, the health of our children, which could be parsed into numerous divisions, such as health care, insurance, obesity, underage sex, etc. Nevertheless, this is an issue which many people are somehow unaware of and awareness of and prevention of childhood obesity DEFINITELY deserves to be somewhere other than tucked in the business section. Keep up the good work Rick! Your range of topics is inspiring!

8:24 AM  

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