Hari Sreenivasan, the Dallas correspondent for CBS News and a long-time SAJA member, had an important, timely and exclusive (not easy to do stories that fit all three adjectives) this week. Two days before Halloween, he broke the news that a brand of toy/prop called "Ugly Teeth" more than lives up to its name visually. Turns out they have more than 100 times the acceptable levels of lead in the paint and ingesting any amount can be very dangerous for children. The story, which he first aired on "The Early Show" and later did follow-ups on for other shows, had an immediate impact. The product was removed from store shelves and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an official warning about the teeth being recalled.
Whenever television does such stories, it's easy to dismiss it as rating hype but not in this case. After Hari sent around an e-mail alerting me to the story (see copy below), I forwarded it to a list of friends who have kids under 7ish. And at 9:04 p.m. on Halloween night, one of those friends sent in this post-trick-or-treating note: "Thanks for passing the info on. I just threw the teeth away as I finished reading this." That is an example of journalism at its most effective: when it helps improve people's lives. Halloween, as Hari says, is "a time for parents to worry about cavities, not lead poisoning."
It also is a lesson to reporters and media outlets about the importance of doing your own "marketing" of SOME of your stories. Send e-mails to your friends, post items on Facebook, etc. You can't rely on your media outlet, no matter how big, to get to everyone.
Watch Hari's exclusive and post your comments below.
EARLIER ON SAJAforum:
- HARI SREENIVASAN ITEMS:
- Hari's running in the NYC Marathon this Sunday, Nov. 4, to raise money for "Team for Kids," a terrific charity that helps children around the country. You can support him by going to this link and putting in his last name (SREENIVASAN) and his entry number (124528) and making a tax-deductible donation.]
From Hari's e-mail, sent around on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007:
If you or any child you know are planning to wear some "UGLY TEETH" as part of your costume- PLEASE DON'T. There could be a very high level of lead in the paint coating the toys- and ingesting any amount can be very dangerous for children.
I've been working with a source over the past few months and Monday we broke a story about the lead content in several Halloween products- the most dangerous of the ones tested were "ugly teeth" distributed by a company called AMSCAN and available at stores such as Party City, Halloween USA, Factory Card and Party Outlet etc. Many of the products had lead levels near 100 times what is allowed.
By the end of the day the product's retailers and distributors had pulled the product from 970 + stores around the country and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has launched an official investigation.There were however several thousand purchased before our story aired.
Rather than waiting for an official recall, with less than 24 hours to go before Halloween, I'd just like to spread the word about these toys designed to go into the mouths of children.
It was a specific brand and type of teeth but in my non-scientific, non-CBS, personal opinion, I would keep ALL painted products out of children's mouths. If you see little trick or treaters at your door with these or other plastic or painted teeth, please have their parents consider continuing without the toys in their mouth.
Post your comments below.