Why are some Salt Lake City TV news outlets celebrating a kid who stole a car and put his own life — and the lives of who knows how many other people — in danger?
You probably saw one of the first-day stories, which I wrote for The Salt Lake Tribune and other outlets also produced. On Monday, a 5-year-old Ogden boy argued with his mother when she refused to buy him a Lamborghini. He later took the car keys, drove away in the family SUV and headed for California to buy his own Lamborghini — with $3 in his wallet.
He made it onto Interstate 15 before he was stopped by a surprised state trooper who saw the car driving slowly and erratically. But no one was injured and the boy was returned to his family. Phew.
It was absolutely a legitimate news story. It’s weird and even amusing, given that no one was hurt.
But the next day, Lamborghini owner Jeremy Neves offered to give the boy a ride, the boy’s family took him up on it, and cameras were there to capture it for FOX 13 and KSL-Ch. 5.
On KSL, there were big smiles from the anchors as they told viewers the boy “got to take a spin” in a Lamborghini. “I know, let’s not reward bad behavior,” said reporter Mike Anderson. “We’re going to hear a lot of that today.”
Gee, you think?
FOX 13 also took a light-hearted, isn’t-this-great approach to the ride. “And it even gets better,” reporter Hailey Higgins told viewers, because a California company had offered to fly the boy out and let him drive their Lamborghinis.
Both stations also gave airtime to Neves, whose comments were astonishing. “I’m not encouraging kids to go out and take their parents’ car and do anything else that’s illegal,” he told KSL. “But I’m absolutely inspired by the principles that he displayed of success. Of knowing what he wants. Going after it.”
He told FOX 13, “The success principles he displayed were magnificent to me.”
Seriously? The 5-year-old is just a kid and nobody got hurt, but he stole a car, drove it illegally and endangered a lot of lives. Calling that “magnificent” is bizarre — making it part of your fun TV story is irresponsible.
Both stations also showed footage of Neves — a total stranger to the boy’s family — hugging the 5-year-old. Nobody wore masks. No social distancing was observed. No coronavirus pandemic to worry about, apparently.
KUTV had a picture of the two hugging and reported that the boy’s “Lamborghini dreams … are now coming true.” Isn’t that just great? Shouldn’t we all be happy?
Both FOX 13 and KSL aired video not just of Neves driving the boy, who was seat-belted into the passenger side of the two-seat car, but of him sitting on his sister’s lap while Neves drove them down a public street. That’s not only dangerous, it’s illegal. And it was a horrible example for any youngster who might have seen these “feel-good” stories.
But responsibility clearly took a back seat to trying to get a few smiles out of something that was so wrong on so many levels.