ABC Plays The Old Skin Game

ABC Plays The Old Skin Game
Networks half-baked report criticized those who have fun in the sun.

By Dan Gainor
August 17, 2005

     ABCs World News Tonight has found a new addiction sunbathing. The Aug. 16 broadcast found anchor Charles Gibson saying that some people just can't help themselves and he meant it.

     Reporter John Berman devoted almost two-and-a-half minutes to a small study that claimed getting a suntan is addictive. According to the story, Dr. Richard Wagner helped conduct two surveys of beachgoers, and found that many show classic signs of addiction. They get hooked on the sun like others get hooked on alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.

     The Aug. 15 BBC News did a similar story, but did something Berman never addressed, asked other medical professionals. According to that story, Colin Drummond, professor of addiction psychiatry at St George's Hospital Medical School, London, said: I have concerns about calling everything in the world an addiction.

     Berman had no such problem. All he included were comments from sunbathers and used them to reinforce on some of the questions Wagner, a dermatologist from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, had used in his study. Wagners study claimed that in one study, 26 percent of people at the beach met the clinical level for addiction. In the other, 53 percent, according to Berman.

     The ABC story also never questioned the validity of a dermatologist doing an addiction study. Instead, Berman was playing the role of psychiatrist and diagnosed the sunworshippers on his own: It might take therapy to convince sun worshipers their zeal could be deadly.