2.4 Percent: ‘Dramatic’ Decrease or ‘Disappointing’ Increase?

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on January 9, 2008

Holiday retail sales were up in 2007 from 2006, but not enough for a media always looking for ways to downplay economic news. 

According to MasterCard SpendingPulse, retail sales were up 3.6 percent during the holiday season – 2.4 percent excluding gas prices. But because it’s not as big an increase as recent years have produced, the media reported it as bad news.

On NBC “Nightly News,” reporter Savannah Guthrie announced a “dramatic” 2.4 percent decrease in women’s clothing sales. A decrease was “dramatic,” but the same percentage increase was apparently nothing to be happy about. Guthrie called it “disappointing.” 


Other news outlets also presented the growth as disappointing news:

  • On the CBS “Evening News,” Seth Doane informed viewers the season had been “dismal” until an impressive 19 percent bump in shopping the weekend before Christmas. 
  • On NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday morning, Margaret Brennan called the 2.4 percent increase” “small” but “important.” She painted a dire picture for retailers, which she said “need this post-Christmas binge in order for them to meet their sales goals.”
  • On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Ryan Owens said the 3.6% increase is “the smallest in four years, a clear sign that the economy is slowing down.”
  • The New York Times’ headline called spending “weak.” The article by Michael Barbaro blamed the “bleak” season on consumers who were “uneasy about the economy and unimpressed by the merchandise in stores.”
  • To their credit, the major outlets also noted that the news will probably get better as consumers hit the stores for post-Christmas shopping. That will give shoppers the chance to cash in gift cards and hopefully spend more on top of the gifts.


    While much of the media did acknowledge that the week after Christmas plays an important role in holiday shopping numbers, they stuck to downplaying positive growth as a sign of economic woe.

    Only Investor’s Business Daily put the story into real perspective, quoting PriceGrabber.com CEO Ron LaPierre, who pointed out that “even with a slowing growth rate, the dollar amounts are rising in the billions” and “the fact that e-commerce can generate $4 billion more in sales than it did this time last year is very promising.” 

    Go to BusinessandMedia.org for the original posting.