Friday the 13th has brought forth a traditional media meme: how to parlay silly, outmoded superstitions into “lifestyle” news.

Disney has taken it one step further, actually commissioning a survey to find out “What scares you?” As happy coincidence would have it, Disneyland is opening its new “Monsters Inc.” attraction.

The survey seems somewhat useful, in a slow-news-day kind of way:

The survey found that 86 percent of adults and 91 percent of youngsters admitted to being very scared of something. Nearly one-in-five adults (18 percent) also said they are scared of more things now than they were as a child. Adults admit to other scares, including snakes (38 percent), fear of heights (36 percent), watching scary movies (22 percent) and the dark (eight percent).

Of course, when this gets reported (as I saw on the full-screen Good Morning America graphic), it winds up as:

Biggest adult fears:

  • 38% – Snakes
  • 36% – Heights
  • 22% – Scary Movies
  • 8% – “the Dark”

Gee… what ever happened to “public speaking?” Wasn’t that conclusively proven to be the number one fear, above death?

Thanks to this, my new number one fear is that newsfolk don’t have the brains or patience to sort through statistics and surveys, and will basically pass on whatever someone hands them. “This just in… two out of three teevee newscasters cannot handle simple fractions. Mary, that’s almost half.” (Maybe it’s time to move beyond aspiring to be an interview coach/media consultant. The real market is in snake removal.)