I disagree with the points Erik Wemple tries to make in his article about Segways and Segway reporting (“A Nice Ride,” 5/30).
1. Wemple implies that reporters subjected to new technology or flashy products can’t be trusted to give an unbiased opinion about the product they are reviewing. It appears their geeky brains are so seduced by the product that they can’t help but give a glowing review and glaze over minor (or major) flaws. Perhaps Wemple would prefer that we rely instead on opinions from reporters who have never laid a hand on the products they review.
I’ve got news for you, Mr. Wemple: I love gadgets. I buy them and try them out by the truckload, and I’ll be the first to admit that 99 percent of the crap I buy is just that. But I don’t feel that way about my Segway HT. Glitz may lead us to buy or try, but it does not lead us to endorse.
2. Wemple thinks that in order to compensate for this media bias, we should give more prominence to the risks introduced by the device. Perhaps he agrees with pedestrians who imagine a world in which they won’t be able to leave their home without fear of being run over by a mechanical contraption. Following that logic, we should expand press coverage on the dangers introduced by bicycles; after all, a 200-pound person riding a bike can move twice as fast as a guy on a Segway.
3. Wemple saysrightlythat glitz drives a lot of press. But so do alarm and sensationalism. Wemple brings a problem with today’s media to light: He describes a “problem,” but merely touches the surface, coloring it all with a tone of alarm. In fact, he implies that all this glitz-powered media coverage of the Segway may help introduce a dangerous product into society.
Contrary to Wemple’s assertion, the Segway does have an automatic kill switch. A riderless Segway will automatically shut down in less than three seconds. The Metro-station accident mentioned in the article happened for two reasons: (1) The rider forgot to place the Segway in standby mode, which requires merely the press of a button, and (2) the Metro platforms are so narrow that even a person walking at a normal pace would fall on the tracks if they walked towards the edge for a total of three seconds. If Metro banned everything that fell on the tracks, people wouldn’t be allowed on the trains.
Perhaps the Segway’s good press isn’t related to a marketing conspiracy or to the feeble-mindedness of the reporters that try it. Perhaps the benefits do outweigh the flaws. Wouldn’t you like to live in a world where people ride nonpolluting vehicles for any errand within 15 miles of their home? I’d like to live in a world that at least gives me the option to try it.