Tonight at 11pm, WJLA (ABC 7) will air a reckless and irresponsible story about vinyl siding that will likely ignore a number of key facts provided in advance by the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI). Here are our predictions as to what you can expect to see – and key facts that will be omitted – in tonight’s broadcast:
WJLA won’t tell viewers that the UL study at the center of tonight’s news report is flawed: It ignores real world scenarios and its conclusions are invalid and cannot be trusted. For example, a fire was replicated by putting a grill directly against the side of the house. Unlikely scenario since the grill would not even be able to open in that position.
WJLA won’t inform viewers that UL’s own working group rejected the study: The group UL hand-picked as an advisory panel for the study urged UL to remove it online due to the study’s unreliable methodology. UL ignored their concerns, and released it anyway.
WJLA will sensationalize a single house fire from nine years ago in Loudoun County as representative of a rampant problem regarding vinyl siding safety. WJLA won’t clarify that the official report on this fire found that a number of factors were to blame for the result of the incident.
WJLA will interview a local fire chief who will express misplaced, uninformed concerns about vinyl siding. We admire our brave firefighters, but they are not informed on the chemistry of vinyl siding, and many do not know the facts about the material. Their views on this issue have been based largely on the flawed UL study, a report that has been publicly discredited.
WJLA will conceal from viewers that vinyl siding burns slower than wood. Vinyl siding’s ignition temperature is significantly higher than common framing lumber and wood exterior wall covering, This is fact -- but since it conflicts with WJLA’s interest to incite reckless fear among its viewers, you likely won’t hear about it in tonight’s segment.
WJLA will not clarify that fires starting outside the home are extremely rare. Roughly four percent of fires start outside the home, and claddings of any type are seldom a factor. Most fires start in the home – predominately in the kitchen, bathroom, or living room. But WJLA will try to deceive viewers by positioning such events a common, everyday occurrence -- so you likely won’t hear this important context.
WJLA won’t disclose that tonight’s report will be a copy of NBC4’s misleading segment last year. In a shameless display of unoriginal / copycat journalism, tonight’s broadcast will air the same misleading segment NBC4 ran last year.
At least 90 percent of tonight’s broadcast will be negative and misleading in tone and content. We predict that that roughly 90 percent of tonight’s story will focus on the baseless assertions against vinyl siding, and only 10 percent of the segment will reference or quote the lengthy response VSI provided in advance clarifying the facts. And it will reflect the report’s overall unbalanced, non-objective portrayal of vinyl siding.
Of course, we hope to be proven wrong. We’d be pleasantly surprised if WJLA presented a well-rounded, informed examination of this important issue of local viewers. But we’re rather confident that won’t be the case …