ABC News Used Rolling Thunder to Promote Helmet Agenda

May 30th, 2007 1:01 AM
Media 3--Washington Post

For the past 20 years, every Memorial Day weekend,  tens of thousands of motorcyclists join together as Rolling Thunder to honor the military, particularly the dead and MIA.  The coverage is usually positive and focuses on the patriotic bikers and their interesting-looking bikes.  On May 27, ABC News went a different direction for this year’s ride. Instead of covering Rolling Thunder and their military and veteran-related issues, the way the Washington Post and the Washington Times did in their articles, ABC turned it into advocacy journalism to inform people about the importance of--wearing helmets while riding motorcycles. After four rather bland sentences about the the event, ABC slipped into lecture-mode (emphasis mine thoughout):

And as the number of motorcycles on the road rises, so does the number of motorcycle deaths.

A recent government report found motorcycle deaths have more than doubled in the past 10 years. Nearly 4,800 people died last year in motorcycle accidents and 87,000 were injured.

Mary Peters, the U.S. secretary of Transportation, is one of the six million Americans who rides motorcycles. She is campaigning to get every American who rides a bike to first put on a helmet.

"Of the motorcycle fatalities over the last year, 700 of them would likely not have died had they had a helmet on," said Peters. "I hope I'm setting the right kind of role model by wearing all my safety equipment, that I check out my bike before I leave, that I ride with others so that we are more visible."

In the entire article, there was only one quote that was not from a safety advocate. In it, I know the speaker rides a motorcycle, but I don’t know if he was a Rolling Thunder participant.  I can’t be sure because it isn’t exactly specified whether ABC is still talking to another generic motorcycle-riding helmet advocate or if it switched back to discussing Rolling Thunder:

So why do so many riders opt for less safety?

"Some people just believe in flouting the system," said Harry Avila, a Harley Davidson rider. "They think they're cool."

Other people, Peters believes, just don't know any better. Those are the riders she is hoping to reach.

This close to a holiday that recognizes the men and women who have died in military service to their country, couldn’t ABC have profiled Rolling Thunder the way the Washington Post and Washington Times did and explain a little to the readers about a sure-to-please Memorial Day topic (for all of those who don’t think American soldiers are terrorists), while making sure to focus on the group’s mission?

 Maybe next time, ABC will actually cover the event and not just use it as a tool to promote helmet usage. Sure, it is safer for bikers to wear helmets, but write about it in another article, don’t hijack a 20-year tribute to past and present members of the military for an agenda.

Contact Lynn at tvisgoodforyou2  AT yahoo DOT com