Jobless Numbers Jump; Watch Bias ABC's Gibson Spin Stats from 1982 vs 2009

Unemployment rose again in September, to 9.8 percent, with 263,000 jobs lost according to Bureau of Labor Statistics release. That followed months of positive economic coverage from the networks and begs the question: how with the network news spin that tonight?

The network news media have been manipulating bad jobs reports in Obama's favor since March as the unemployment rate rose from 8.1 percent in February to 9.7 percent in August. Reporters have found rehired people "doing backflips," in 2009, but the last time unemployment was that high network journalists found people living under bridges and plenty of "hopelessness." That was under President Ronald Reagan in 1982. But when Reagan was facing a similar rising unemployment rate the networks attacked him with it, month after month.

ABC anchor Charles Gibson illustrated how dramatically different the network coverage of Reagan and Obama really were by covering the exact same numbers in totally opposite fashion.(Watch video)

Gibson, who was a Capitol Hill correspondent for ABC in 1982, told viewers on May 7, 1982, "[T]here really isn't any good news in the statistics. All the numbers are bad." He then quoted two Democratic attacks on Reagan including Rep. Henry S. Reuss, D-Wis., who charged that Reagan's "policies aren't just mistaken, they're wicked."

But as an ABC anchor in 2009 when the unemployment rate was EXACTLY the same 9.4 percent, Gibson was full of hope. He introduced that night's story saying "sometimes a bad jobs report can look good."

"345,000 Americans lost their jobs in May, a big number to be sure. Traumatic if you are one of the 345,000. But the number was smaller than economists had predicted, and that's good news," Gibson said before admitting that the unemployment rate of 9.4 percent was "pretty bad." Neither Gibson, nor reporter Betsy Stark mentioned President Obama at all that night.

On Aug. 7, 2009, after the unemployment rate dipped back down to 9.4 percent from 9.5 percent Gibson again suggested "the economy may be finally turning the corner."

The Business & Media Institute just released a Special Report: Networks Flip Flop on Jobs which examined the double-standard on jobs stories in 1982 and 2009. You can find the full report here.

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