Somewhere in the bowels of the MSNBC newsroom, a decision was made today to devote considerable coverage to getting to the bottom of a disconcerting juvenile epidemic: car surfing.
That's right, the "fearless gamble" that is "all the rage" among American teenagers, according to NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders, is an important enough story for a national cable news network to send one of its intrepid reporters to give live reports throughout the morning and into the mid-afternoon.
While the topic of car surfing received substantial coverage on "Jansing & Co." with Chris Jansing, "News Live" with Contessa Brewer, and "News Nation" with Tamron Hall, the recent sting operation that uncovered employees at a New York City Planned Parenthood office offering advice to a man posing as a pimp who admitted to exploiting minors as sex slaves received but a scant 30-second news brief during the 10 a.m. hour of "Jansing & Co."
"I've never heard of this before," confessed Jansing. "What exactly is car surfing?"
Sanders, reporting live while driving himself in circles around a parking lot in Florida, explained to Jansing that car surfing is "dangerous," "illegal," and "obscure," but that throngs of teens are dying in pursuit of this "fearless gamble."
All death is tragic, but let's put MSNBC's abundance of car-surfing coverage and dearth of human-trafficking coverage into perspective. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, which Sanders cited in his report, there were a total of 99 cases of car-surfing injuries identified in American newspapers from 1990 to 2008. On the other hand, the 2006 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked in the United States annually.
Instead of covering a tragedy that afflicts thousands of people each year, MSNBC opted to investigate an "obscure" fools' errand that hasn't harmed 100 people in the past 20 years.
"Is it okay to drive and do TV at the same time?" asked a smirking Jansing.
Perhaps a more appropriate question to ask would be: is it okay for a national news correspondent to be giving live reports behind the wheel of a moving vehicle on a story about teens doing stupid things with moving vehicles, at the expense of investigating allegations that a nationally-renowned abortion clinic is complicit in helping people who admit to selling minors for sex?
A transcript of Chris Jansing's news brief on the Planned Parenthood scandal can be found below:
Jansing & Co.
February 8, 2011
10:14 a.m. EST
An anti-abortion group called Live Action says its undercover cameras caught big problems at a New York City Planned Parenthood office. The man in it poses as a pimp and asks for help for underage sex workers. Live Action insists the video shows that employees at Planned Parenthood are willing to help people who sexually exploit minors. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America said it will retrain its employees on how to deal with situations like this.
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.