If you were wondering why on Earth so many people were waiting over 2 hours to pump gas last night, you can thank the producers over at KRGV for unleashing an unnecessary wide-spread panic over a report that likely had nothing to do with the Rio Grande Valley’s gas supply.
During yesterday’s Noon broadcast, KRGV’s Dina Herrera-Garza reported that officials at Gas Buddy, an international crowd-sourced fuel watch, had reported that there could be a potential temporary shortage of fuel due to Hurricane Harvey. The report verbatim:
“This just into the Channel 5 news room, a temporary gas shortage is possible in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. That information coming from officials at Gas Buddy. It’s a gasoline availability tracker with eyes on the pumps nationwide. Officials say if the shortage happens, it should only be temporary and not wide-spread. You’re urged to gas up when you can. Prices are also expected to rise between 15 and 35 cents within the next two weeks.”
The clip was subsequently posted on KRGV’s Facebook page; at the time of this writing, the video has over 251,000 views and over 7,000 shares.
In an attempt to track down the report KRGV was referring to, all we could find from Gas Buddy was a press release dated August 25th announcing a new gas tracker tool as well as some off-the-cuff analysis on potential gas shortages due to Hurricane Harvey:
Again, this was an analysis done PRIOR to Hurricane Harvey making landfall and prior to Houston’s flooding epidemic. Without much else to go on, we could have safely assumed that KRGV may have taken this news release and simply ran with it. Also, take into consideration that the press release does not specify what areas would be affected by a potential shortage if any.
Shortly after KRGV reported this story, people in droves began rushing to their local gas stations, causing unreasonably long delays on major roadways. In some parts of the Valley, traffic was gridlocked enough that local police had to be called out to direct traffic. With no real specific source to back it up, KRGV essentially triggered a minor state of emergency so bad that even Hidalgo County had to release an official statement:
From The Monitor:
KRGV attempted to clean up their story last night as their headline read “No Shortage of Gasoline in the Valley from Hurricane Harvey” and clarified that their source was not a press-release, but an exclusive interview with an un-named Senior Analyst from Gas Buddy.
What’s actually ironic in all of this is that by reporting on a potential shortage of gasoline with no regional reference as to whether or not the Valley would experience these shortages, KRGV actually CREATED a minor fuel shortage by pushing most of the Valley to the gas pumps last night. Readers have been pouring in that many of their local gas stations have ran out due to last night’s unnecessary surge.
So how did KRGV screw this up so badly? They pulled the trigger on a story that had little merit and did absolutely nothing to check with our Government officials to cross-reference Gas Buddy’s analysis. I understand that normally, you wouldn’t really need to do that if the story doesn’t have wide-ranging, immediate effects. However, gasoline prices and availability impacts literally everybody, so any story regarding this should be thoroughly investigated before you make your report. For example, if KRGV sourced a private company about water or food shortages, KRGV has a responsibility to its viewers to confirm that these analyses are accurate with Government officials before they report their story and start a major freaking out about people’s necessities. This was, unfortunately, fake news not necessarily at its most dangerous, but at its worst. Simply, KRGV cared about ratings rather than their viewers.
We at The Bench Wire are far from your beacons of journalistic integrity, but KRGV reaches hundreds of thousands of people and this level of journalistic irresponsibility is reprehensible. However, perhaps you shouldn’t put it passed them being that they were the same station that greenlit whatever the hell this was.
You can reach out KRGV and let them know your thoughts by emailing John Kittleman (General Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jenny Martinez (News Director, email@example.com).