Networks ignore bad economic report

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on May 14, 2014

Directions

-Read the excerpt below from Sean Long's Media Research Center's post.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

After strong job creation numbers were released in the May 2 jobs report, the broadcast networks emphasized this good news.  Two days earlier, when horrible growth data was released showing the GDP had dropped from 2.6 percent to just 0.1 percent the networks chose not to cover the bad news. Only CBS mentioned the GDP report, but it underemphasized the slowdown by hyping good stock market news.

The three networks reported on the positive jobs report for a total of 7 minutes and 17 seconds on morning and evening shows, but only CBS discussed the drop in GDP numbers and did so for only 28 seconds.

ABC and NBC did not even mention the US Chamber of Commerce’s April 30 report on the GDP. This report was very important and quite disturbing because as it showed a dismal 0.1 percent growth for the US economy during January, February and March. In comparison, the growth rate for the last three months of 2013 was dramatically higher at 2.6 percent.

In both stories discussing GDP, CBS reporters emphasized the strength of the stock market, implying that this negated the lack of growth in the GDP. When co-anchor Norah O’Donnell mentioned GDP in CBS’s May 1 “This Morning,” she did so within a story praising the “record high” stock market.  Similarly, anchor Scott Pelley apparently tried to comfort April 30’s “Evening News” viewers that “the slowdown didn’t worry Wall Street though” pointing out that the Dow closed at “an all-time high.”

The networks weren’t reluctant to discuss the economy, as ABC, CBS and NBC all covered May 2’s jobs report in detail. On May 2, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly Employment Situation analysis (jobs report), showing 288,000 jobs created and unveiling a new 6.3 percent unemployment rate.  For comparison, April saw .4 percent less unemployment and 96,000 more jobs than in March.

These jobs numbers were encouraging, and the networks seized on the topic to push the good news. For example, ABC anchor Diane Sawyer began May 2’s “World News” asking if the jobs numbers revealed “the real turnaround for American workers…” Each of the networks also included heartwarming but anecdotal interviews with Americans excited to have jobs.

The news wasn’t all positive, with continued high African-American unemployment. While this number fell from 12.4 percent in March, it remained much higher than the national average at 11.6 percent in April.

Only one broadcast mentioned this, when CBS anchor Scott Pelley said that higher African-American unemployment was “worth mentioning,” squeezing this comment awkwardly in the last 10 seconds of the broadcast. It is not unusual for the networks to ignore black unemployment, as they failed to report on it in 98 percent of jobs report stories between April 2013 and April 2014.

Financial reporters and analysts expressed concern over the weak GDP numbers, even as the networks did not appear worried. Finbarr Bermingham, writing for the International Business Times, called the slowdown “dramatic,” pointing out that “few [analysts] expected such a huge drop.” For example, according to Bermingham, “the Bureau of Economic Analysis has attributed the collapse in growth to a slump in exports and a fall-off in domestic investment.”

(Excerpted from mrc.org)

Questions

1. The GDP and the Jobs Report are both important economic indicators.  What type of bias did the networks display, especially NBC and ABC, by ignoring the latest GDP report?

2.  Read the explanation of the GDP and the Jobs Report below.  What do you think is the motive of NBC and ABC producers for choosing to suppress this important economic news?
b)  Ask a parent the same question.


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.

Background

GDP:

  • Gross domestic product, or GDP, is an important economic measure because it attempts to pinpoint the country’s economic health in just one number.
  • It is an estimate of all the economic activity taken over the previous three months.
  • In simple terms – when times are good, the GDP figure goes up. When times are bad, it goes down.
  • Two consecutive quarters – or six months – of negative growth mean the economy is in recession.
  • It is a measure of confidence because if people, governments and companies are spending, it’s likely the economy is growing. If nobody is spending, the economy is contracting.
  • GDP can be calculated either through the expenditure approach (the sum total of what everyone in an economy spent over a particular period) or the income approach (the total of what everyone earned). Both should produce the same result.

GDP = C + I + G + (X – M), where:

  • C is private consumption or consumer spending
  • I is business spending
  • G is government spending
  • X is exports, and
  • M is imports

The Jobs Report:

On the first Friday of every month, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the Jobs Report. The report estimates the number of people employed and unemployed, the number of hours being worked and a myriad of other related facts and figures. Its information is widely anticipated, forecasted and used by Wall Street firms, their economists and many business decision-makers. It may even impact broader public and corporate confidence, and therefore future business and hiring decisions.
























Answer(s)

1.  NBC and ABC, by ignoring the latest GDP report displayed bias by story selection and omission. CBS, by reporting briefly on the news, but with a positive spin, displayed bias by spin.

2. a) and b) Opinion questions. Answers vary.