ABC's Dan Harris: Is Bad News the New Porn?

Is pessimism about the economy really the new porn?

ABC's Dan Harris inquired about that possibility in an April 9 "Quick Fix" video for ABCNews.com. But he didn't examine ABC's role in promoting pessimistic or apocalyptic news which has been happening for years.

"Here's something I'm fixated on this week," Harris teased. "A little something called pessimism porn. That is a term coined by the good folks over at New York Magazine and it refers to the fact that there are a lot of people who've become addicted to reading apocalyptic news about the economy online."

According to Harris, "People are logging on to read all sorts of dire predictions about a new Great Depression, bread lines, riots. You name it." 

Harris even interviewed two pessimistic financial experts, Gerald Celente and Peter Schiff, who one could call the porn stars of pessimistic reports. Both Celente and Schiff have appeared on many news programs to discuss their dire views of the economic situation. According to Schiff's Web site, he will be on "Good Morning America" April 12.

The ABC anchor and correspondent asked Celenta what he meant when he forecasted a situation "worse than we've ever seen before."

"Bread lines. Protests. Tax revolts. Civil unrest. Crime going to levels we haven't seen before. [Rising] Homeless," Celente replied.

After the interviews with Celente and Schiff, Harris added a disclaimer: "I should be clear that most mainstream economists don't agree with Salenti and Schiff at all. Their predictions are not nearly as dire. So why would anybody put themselves through this? Why would anybody read pessimism porn with any regularity? Well, porn addicts that I've spoken to say it helps you feel smarter than most of the average Joes because it gives you a sense that you know what's coming when most other people don't."

If pessimism really is the new porn, as Harris' piece suggests the news media bears some responsibility for the negativity. The Business & Media Institute released a Special Report in May 2008 examining the way ABC, CBS and NBC were more negative in 2008 than the major newspapers were following Wall Street's crash in 1929.

The Great Media Depression report found that negative stories dominated economic coverage 6-to-1 and nearly 40 percent of those stories had no positive comments at all.

ABC has a history of hyping economic turmoil. Bianna Golodryga warned in 2008 that the economy was "like a house of cards" and in 2005 - long before the recession began ABC's Betsy Stark predicted an economic slowdown just three days before a better than expected jobs report found 270,000 new jobs for that month.

In 2005, the network complained about rising gas prices, not mentioning that prices had fallen until three weeks of straight price declines. It also hyped the dangers of bird flu for an entire week in 2006.

Harris' complete report on pessimism porn which will include talking to "addicts" is slated for the weekend of April 11-12 on "Good Morning America."

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.