COMMENTS: Downs and Ups

Both CBS and NBC covered the continuing travails of the housing market. NBC led off its newscast with Diana Olick, real estate correspondent for financial news cable channel CNBC. Olick covered the growing inventory of unsold homes. "Too much supply and too little demand," she worried, as the volume of new home sales fell in March to the lowest level in 16 years and fewer applications for mortgages were filed. This lack of buyers occurs despite the fact that homes are ever cheaper: the year-to-year 13% fall in prices is the steepest in 38 years, she calculated. The stock of unsold homes is also growing because of foreclosures. CBS had Ben Tracy cover that angle for its Hitting Home series. He followed the building code enforcement squad in one Sacramento neighborhood, policing vandalism and evicting squatters in vacant bank-owned housing. Blight is a growing problem in a third of all cities, Tracy told us.

House prices may be falling but food and fuel continue to get more expensive. NBC's Anne Thompson illustrated the global impact of higher costs for rice and grain and pasta by visiting the single neighborhood of Jackson Heights in the New York borough of Queens where all the world's major cuisines can be found cheek by jowl. On ABC, Bill Weir (embargoed link) showed us tortilla protests in Mexico and bread riots in Egypt to dramatize the decisions by Illinois farmers to switch from food production to corn for ethanol: "India's finance minister calls biofuels a crime against humanity" while the ethanol industry "blames soaring food prices on bad weather, a weak dollar and Chinese demand." ABC's Betsy Stark looked at the best-selling vehicle on America's roads, the Ford F-150 pick-up truck, to show how high oil prices have climbed: the price of a full tank of a truck's gasoline now exceeds $100. CBS' Nancy Cordes examined the pass along costs for airline travel. High aviation fuel prices have triggered eight separate fare hikes so far this year and a host of surcharges: extra leg room $35; book by telephone $25; check a second bag $25; change a ticket $150.


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