The Today Show this morning had a blast shaming CNN for its skateboarding scandal.
As Gawker reported on Friday, a skateboarder that Anderson Cooper’s daytime show had planned to profile suffered a head injury and now lies in a coma. A producer with the show, “Anderson,” had reportedly requested footage of the kid’s exploits. According to Gawker’s John Cook, here’s the nitty-gritty:
Details are sketchy, but we hear the show booked a teenager to appear on a show about how the adolescent mind works. In advance of his appearance, a source says, a producer “encouraged [the] kid to go out and ‘film the crazy stuff you do.’”
So the marching orders were to go crazy? I put that question to Cook, and he said that that’s how his source characterized the instructions that were issued to the kid. It’s unclear whether the source actually heard the instructions being conveyed.
Whatever the consequential details behind those instructions, The Today Show has decided that “Anderson” and CNN are morally and ethically culpable. Its news segment on this story executes the classic hide-behind-a-suited-expert approach to taking sides on an issue. And it includes two instances of the false positive. Some transcripting:
Reporter Peter Alexander says in his report:
“The accident has many asking, ‘Did the producer encourage dangerous behavior?’ (bolding added to highlight false plural)
Then he brings in one guy, “The Ethics Guy” Bruce Weinstein, actually, to say this:
“The principle ‘do no harm’ applies not just to physicians and nurses but to TV producers too.”
Later in the segment, same formula:
“Now, as a teenager lays in a coma, some critics are calling for a new standard in television.” (bolding added for same reason as above)
In comes “The Ethics Guy” again. Just one ethics guy, mind you:
“Even if it is legal for television producers to do these sorts of things---to encourage guests to place themselves in harm’s way---it’s not ethically intelligent.
And guess what? Teenagers gash their heads open every day at public parks, playgrounds, entrances to government buildings, handrails, basketball courts, etc.---all without any encouragement from Anderson producers. Too many of them never bother putting reasonably priced and comfy helmets.
Just look around: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts skateboarding in its list of activities in which the use of a helmet will reduce the chance of traumatic brain injuries. In Arizona, the rate of skateboarding-related head and neck injuries spiked 29 percent between 2004 and 2008. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 26,000 people per year check in to ERs with skateboarding-related injuries.
The point? Many of these kids are performing for their own, homemade vids, as YouTube’s collection of skateboarding accident footage testifies. Some are performing for the pedestrians who happen to be at the plaza that day. Some are performing for who knows what. And many refuse to wear helmets, which is where the Today Show’s line of inquiry should have started.