Shifting away from the cable news networks, this week I critique ABC’s "World News with Diane Sawyer." Watch the episode here: http://abcnews.go.com/watch/world-news-with-diane-sawyer/SH5585921/VD55110565/world-news-208-runaway-toyotas-no-flaws-in-electronic-system
The top story from the broadcast I viewed focused on the Toyota auto-acceleration debacle which scared drivers last year. The report began with an overview of the issue, detailing the accidents and injuries caused by accelerating Toyota vehicles. It was then revealed that the “mystery” behind the acceleration had been solved. Citing a ten month survey of nine Toyota cars, Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood declared that there was no electronic cause for the malfunctions. Instead, the survey revealed that the involuntary acceleration was caused by floor mats which pinned down the accelerator and “sticky pedals.” Both anchor Diane Sawyer and reporter Brian Ross made a big deal out of the fact that NASA scientists were asked to help with this survey. While it is interesting that NASA did aid in the investigation, Toyota had already figured out that floor mats were causing the trouble and recalled millions of cars to fix this problem. Sawyer and Ross’s awe for the NASA engineers discounted Toyota’s initial findings and subsequent actions. As to the “sticky pedals,” Toyota has already been fined heavily by the federal government for not revealing this danger sooner. Ross mentioned how Toyota may be facing more lawsuits about the “sticky pedal” issue beyond the federal fines. By highlighting how badly the company was fined and how it may be sued in the future casts Toyota in a bad light. This is a good story for the Japanese automaker, yet ABC portrays the company unnecessarily negatively. On the whole, the story sticks to the facts and reports the new findings in an objective manner. The remainder of the piece is tainted, probably due to the negative reporting which took place over the past year. Old habits die hard.
Egypt continues to be in a state of upheaval. After being told to stop protesting and go back to work, the demonstrators have “caught their second wind.” This was another day of Egyptian revolt in the saga which has gripped the world. Thousands of protestors filled Liberation Square to express their sentiments about the government under President Hosni Mubarak. Nevertheless, the positive slant toward the protestors remained in this report by ABC News correspondent Terry Moran. Moran said that Mubarak “staged” another press conference and that the people are the “real power.” Frankly, the real power lies with whomever the military sides, but this point was overlooked. Moran constantly depicted the revolutionaries as great people who only want to escape an evil regime. He also focused on Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who had organized many of the protests. The story featured Ghonim’s release from detainment and the Egyptian people’s reaction to his return. ABC did not stay objective here. Yes, everyone loves to have clear-cut good guys and bad guys, but to choose for the public which side to agree with is bordering on unethical journalism. Also, using words like “staged” to describe Mubarak’s actions portrays him as a dictator who wants to hide from the spotlight.
I was happy that ABC covered the economic aspect of this uprising. Since the protests began on Jan. 25, 2011, tourism has shut down. The pyramids at Giza are under military guard, and no tourists may enter the area. Egypt’s economy depends on the tourism industry. Only time will tell how long the economy can survive with its workers on strike and no tourists pumping money into the country. The economic consequences are not well covered elsewhere, so kudos to ABC for finding this story beneath the larger Egyptian issue and for staying objective in this section.