BMI Vice President Dan Gainor took to the Fox Business Network Thursday to explain the difference between "depression," "recession" and "slow growth," terms the mainstream media has blurred.
Economists "don't even agree that we're in a recession yet," Gainor said. "But then if you watch the network news shows, we're already up to eight times this year - that's once a week where they've made a comparison to the Great Depression."
Gainor was referring to new research from the Business & Media Institute showing the media's tendency to compare current economic conditions to the Great Depression. Network news shows have made the comparison eight times in 2008, and made the comparison 18 times in 2007.
"[P]art of the problem is [they don't] put it in context," Gainor said of the media's coverage of potentially negative economic news. "And when you don't put it in context you forget - yes, housing is down, nobody is saying that it's not gloomy right now, but then put it context and say we had several record years before this."
Reporters tended to toss out comparisons between current and Depression-era home sales, home prices or income inequality without providing any sort of context. Nor did they mention that other aspects of the financial environment are less conducive to Depression than in the late 1920s, or that current unemployment - below 5 percent - is nowhere near Depression-ear unemployment, which peaked near 24 percent.
The incessant focus on "recession" and now "depression" poses the threat of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy - and that's according to journalists, Gainor explained. "I got an e-mail today from the Poynter Institute, one of the foremost journalistic authorities in the country," he said. "They're warning also about how the media may be over-hyping recession so much that they're making this basically a fait accompli."