Friday, January 27, 2006

Oh, this is a shocking surprise. Not.
More than 2 million new jobs were created in 2005, but the broadcast networks instead emphasized such negatives as corporate layoffs and outsourcing, according to a study released Wednesday by a group dedicated to challenging misconceptions in the media about free enterprise.

The Free Market Project (FMP) report, Hit Job, is the result of a detailed analysis of job and employment coverage by all three broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC. The study examined 151 stories on the 2005 evening news shows to assess how they had reported on both job losses and gains during a year of strong employment growth.
And guess what they found?
"More than 4.6 million jobs have been added since May 2003 -- 31 straight months of positive job growth," Gainor added. "Unemployment dropped down to 4.9 percent, lower than the average of all three recent decades."

Nevertheless, based on its study, the FMP arrived at the following conclusions:

-- Job losses, not gains: The networks focused on job losses in slightly more than half the reports (76 out of 151). Just 35 percent of the stories addressed job gains (53 out of 151). In one typical report, Jim Acosta of the "CBS Evening News" left his viewers with a memorable image of the 8,700 job cuts at General Motors in his Nov. 21 story: "Just three days before Thanksgiving, GM is carving up its work force like a Butterball turkey."

-- Government spending promoted: Two of the big Washington stories -- the transportation bill and cutbacks at military bases -- showed how hypocritical the media were. The $284 billion transportation bill was filled with pork but created thousands of new jobs that news reports barely mentioned. However, when military bases were cut to save $48 billion over 20 years, the news shows did more than three times as many stories bemoaning the job losses.

-- 283,000 jobs ignored: Initial unemployment reports were later revised, but the networks ignored those revisions. In 2005, most of those changes involved the addition of jobs, so network news ignored nearly 300,000 jobs in all of the stories, except those few that included cumulative totals.
No wonder polls show people pessimistic and ignorant about the economy.

This is in accord with what Kevin Hassett and John Lott found in the differences in how the media covers the economy when Democrats are president compared to when a Republican is president.
AEI scholars John R. Lott Jr. and Kevin A. Hassett have developed a simple test for political bias by comparing, in 389 newspapers, how economic reports on unemployment, GDP, durable goods, and retail sales have been covered under different presidential administrations from Ronald Reagan to the present.
Full disclosure, my older daughter works for Kevin Hassett.