An obscure law requires that American media must report weekly changes in gasoline retail prices. That’s the only reason you see stories like this one by AP, headlined in the Boston Globe Dec. 12, 2017, “Prices at the pump up a penny.” The story begins: “Massachusetts gas prices are up by a penny this week, but drivers can expect prices to fall this holiday season.” Obviously, every reader — and TV viewer and radio listener, where the story was also reported — will be fascinated to learn that the price of self-serve, regular gas averages $2.49 a gallon in Massachusetts, which, the story says, is “three cents above the national average of $2.46.” AP and Globe editors figure readers can’t figure that $2.49 is three cents more than $2.46. But in such an important story, facts must be clear.
Now, if the media regularly reported the price of bananas, it would be far more exciting. For example, after Jeff Bezos and his Amazon bought Whole Foods, the chain dropped prices of non-organic bananas to 49 cents a pound from 79 cents. AP and the Globe would explain that 49 cents is 30 cents below 79 cents.
File under: News stories you can’t live without.
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