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SRSLY: Do As I Sell, Not As I Do

Your three-minute read on the best reporting you probably missed.


The best reporting you probably missed

David Epstein

Welcome to SRSLY, an (experimental) newsletter highlighting under-exposed accountability journalism. We'll distill the important information from investigative reporting you probably missed, and deliver it to you in three-minutes-or-less worth of reading. Sign up to have it delivered to your inbox. (You can, of course, unsubscribe at the first whiff of a bad joke.)

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Remember when Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, and then claimed she was taking it preemptively to stave off diabetes? And remember how you kind of wanted to believe her until you learned that she’s the literal name and face of a diabetes, we mean candy company called Sugarpova? It’s a typical celeb case of “do as I sell, not as I do.” This week, we skip the newspaper and go straight to a scientific journal for new research from New York University, which found that music stars are every bit as fervent as athletes in selling their young followers on the allure of horrific nutrition. Your four W’s:


In 2013, these NYU researchers showed that pro athletes generally endorsed food you wouldn’t in a million years give to your labrador retriever. Their new paper delved into A-list musicians, and found that 71 percent of the nonalcoholic drinks endorsed were sugar-sweetened, and 81 percent of the endorsed foods were “energy dense and nutrient poor.” That’s science lingo for, “opposite of good for you.”


The top endorsers of metabolic disease food and drink were Baauer,, Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Britney Spears, and Jessie J. Pepsi was the most endorsed product. Only Taylor Swift endorsed Diet Coke! #squadgoals. Snoop Dogg endorsed Hot Pockets and Monster Energy, but hopefully not at the same time unless his stomach is made from titanium alloy.

What else?

The researchers used the nutrient profile index (NPI) to score foods. A low score means a food has loads of calories and scant nutritional value. In the UK, the researchers wrote, a food must have a score of 64 or higher to be advertised to children. So almost nothing these musical geniuses endorsed would make the cut. Seriously, check out the full list of endorsed foods that scored higher than 64: Big Red gum, 5 Gum, Subway, Activia, Sheets Energy Sheets, and …Taco Bell!? So a kid who adores music celebs and decides to make the healthy choices will be chewing gum and pounding nachos while dissolving some kind of neon energy sheet thing on her tongue.

“Is this how Steph does it?”: an ad for Sheets Energy Sheets featuring LeBron James.

Who else?

Usher (Honey Nut Cheerios, Twix) and Jessie J (McDonald’s, Pop Tarts, Cadbury’s) backed products with the lowest average NPI score. Shakira (Pepsi, Activia) endorsed the highest average NPI products. Still, those are a far cry from her own reported diet of actual nutritious foods. I don’t want to say Shakira’s hips are lying, but…

They Said It

“Celebrity ads appear to be popular…” -Martians and/or NYU scientists


Disaster Disaster Relief

“How do you get lost going to a disaster area, and how do you just leave supplies unattended?” Sounds like a stern parent, exasperated at a child who got waylaid en route to cleaning his room. Sadly, according to a ProPublica story, it’s actually a question Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has for the Red Cross. (He’s the ranking member of the congressional committee that oversees the beleaguered charity) Thompson is, shall we say, perturbed that during flooding in Mississippi this spring Red Cross workers attempted to distribute supplies far from those in need, while others simply ditched goods in a parking lot.

#facepalm of the Week

The Government Accountability Office recently found that the government is a little behind the tech curve. Not like haven’t-done-the-last-iPhone-update behind, but like the-system-for-messaging-U.S.-nuclear-forces-uses-floppy-disks behind. Three-quarters of the $80 billion tech budget is spent keeping old technology running. Then again, it’s not like things go so well when the feds do update technology. They spent five-figs on the TSA app that picks a left or right arrow for random screening. TSA agents flipping coins would’ve been so much more fun.

Tweet of The Week

Additional research by Kate Brown.

Tips are appreciated. The paper kind, or the green paper kind.

ProPublica does not vouch for the accuracy of stories appearing on SRSLY. We select, review and summarize key points from accountability stories that may not have gotten wide exposure. But we are not able to independently vet or vouch for the accuracy of stories produced by others. We will inform readers if we learn that stories have been challenged publicly or corrected.

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