Nets Lead w/ 'Awful' Economic News, Not So Excited About Job Gains

When the Labor Department on Friday announced a strong gain of 166,000 jobs during October, double expectations, ABC and CBS gave it a few seconds while NBC ignored the good news, but on Wednesday night NBC, as well as ABC and CBS, led with a bad day on Wall Street they painted as a harbinger of impending economic doom. NBC anchor Brian Williams piled on the bad news as he insisted he took “no pleasure” in highlighting it. With “DANGER SIGNS” on screen, Williams announced: “Good evening. The following sounds pretty awful -- and we take no pleasure in reporting it -- but today Wall Street fell, the U.S. dollar fell, GM is in bad shape and the housing market continues to be in big trouble.”

CBS displayed “MARKET TURMOIL” on screen as Katie Couric opened with how “investors were carrying a world of worries on their shoulders today” because of “the falling dollar, record high oil prices, the mortgage mess, the housing slump, and a possible economic slowdown. And they responded by dumping stocks. That sent the Dow plummeting more than 300 points for the second time in a week.” Over on ABC, Charles Gibson teased his top story: “Tonight, oil gushes and Wall Street plunges.” Gibson cutely led: “Wall Street today took a nose dive sharp enough to make investors' ears pop.”

On Friday, November 2, however, the CBS Evening News gave the good news on unemployment less than ten seconds as Couric reported: “The markets got a boost today from the unemployment report. It held steady in October at 4.7 percent and job creation was strong with 166,00 jobs.” The positive news earned only a few more seconds from ABC's Gibson on World News: “Wall Street ended a volatile week with stocks recovering a little, after yesterday's big losses, thanks to a strong jobs report that cooled fears of a recession. 166,000 new jobs were added last month, twice what was expected and unemployment held steady.”

NBC Nightly News didn't consider the jobs gain newsworthy at all.

Downplaying good news and hyping the bad is nothing new in recent months.

The CBS Evening News last week ignored, and NBC barely noted, the 3.9 percent GDP growth in the third quarter. For details, check this posting by the MRC's Business & Media Institute: “GDP Growth Missed by CBS, Downplayed by NBC.”

My October 5 NewsBusters item recounted how the network evening newscasts, in early September, showcased a loss of jobs in August but, in early October, when that number was revised to a big gain and even more jobs were created in September, CBS didn't bother with the upbeat developments while NBC failed to correct the earlier misinformation:
When the Labor Department reported a net loss of 4,000 jobs for August, the September 7 ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts highlighted the bad news as evidence of an impending recession, but on Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the August number to a gain of 89,000 jobs and reported 110,000 new jobs for September, only ABC bothered to mention the revision while CBS didn't utter a syllable about either jobs gain. The CBS Evening News anchored by Harry Smith, however, found time to note the Postal Service's decision to honor two CBS journalists -- Eric Sevareid and George Polk -- with stamps.

A month ago, Katie Couric plugged an upcoming look at “new worries about the U.S. economy following a disappointing jobs report.” Harry Smith then cited “new concern about the economy tonight following a report which showed the number of jobs in the U.S. dropped by 4,000 in August, the first monthly decline in four years.” Anthony Mason asserted “it had a lot of economists uttering the 'r' word today, recession,” and fretted: “These job numbers are the most worrisome sign yet, Harry, that the housing slump and the mortgage crisis could take the entire economy down with them.” ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased: “The economy loses jobs for the first time in years as the housing crisis raises the risk of recession.” Betsy Stark declared: “The risks of a serious slowdown, even a recession, are rising. Today's jobs report was shockingly bleak.”...
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center