3.12.2010

James "Runaway Prius" Sikes UPDATE: FOXNews.com Jumps In


FOXNews.com is the latest media outlet to think things might be worth a deeper look in the James Sikes "unintended acceleration" Prius incident. They've interviewed the buyer of one of Sikes' former homes, who says there were undisclosed problems that cost him $20,000 to fix. He tried suing, but says Sikes filed for bankruptcy in the process.

Nice to have a network (or at least a part of one) join the story in progress.

Once upon a time in American media, the thing you had to worry about most was the big dogs...ABC, CBS, NBC. Well-financed and staffed with no-nonsense World War II vets who didn't take crap from anybody...least of all somebody they were demanding straight answers from.

Well, it's a different time, a different world and the big three networks are still reporting James Sikes' claim that he had an unintended acceleration incident in his Toyota Prius on a San Diego County freeway Monday afternoon as though it were Gospel...despite actions and comments from the man himself that raised  (or certainly should have raised) questions from the very beginning.

In this brave new world, the first cracks showed up on sites like, well...like TireKicker, where we had big questions from the release of only three minutes of the 911 tape...and way more when all 24 minutes were released.

And we certainly weren't alone. The comments section of The Truth About Cars proved to be interesting reading by Wednesday afternoon. Local San Diego ABC affiliate KGTV thought it was worth probing Sikes' background and character Wednesday night (the only one of the San Diego stations to do so by Friday). And those comments at TTAC gave Jalopnik a thread to pull at Thursday, using some old-fashioned records searching, which gave deeper details to the 2008 bankruptcy filing KGTV reported, but getting an e-mail from Sikes himself in which he appeared to be suggesting that he was just waiting for an excuse to sue one or more media outlets for slander.

That just made Jalopnik push for the Pulitzer all the more (yeah, I know, but it's alliteration and I don't do it often). Six hours later, they published the documents showing that Sikes not only owns a real estate firm, but an adult swingers' website...using the same phone number for both....along with comments from a guy who says he tried to buy one of Sikes' foreclosed homes, only to find the custom kitchen had been gutted.

And the local FOX affiliate in Sacramento followed through last night...talking with Sikes' former neighbors in the Central California Community of Atwater. None of whom had anything nice to say about Sikes. But the bonus was the follow-up story...in which a TV reporter stops a speeding Prius four different ways in just 90 seconds...something Sikes couldn't do for 20 minutes.

There's bound to be more. It's never too late for the big dogs of (traditional) journalism to get off the porch. And Lord knows, this is the kind of story that begs for some real fact-checking. But if they choose not to, it's nice to know new media can more than pick up the slack.

Related Link: Prius Chat Boards

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