The American Heritage Dictionary defines "several" as "being of a number more than two or three but not many." Nevertheless, the Times used the term instead of the more accurate "two," subtly exaggerating the image of restaurant closure.
Two chains - Bennigan's and Steak & Ale - owned by the Metromedia Restaurant Group were closed across the country July 29 after the company filed for bankruptcy. The Times blamed the economy for the shutdowns.
The media were quick to jump on the story of an emergency airplane landing in Manila, Philippines due to a hole in the fuselage of a Qantas flight. And they were quick to sensationalize the story without mentioning Qantas' impressive safety record.
"Well, nobody's saying that we should be covering up a huge hole in the side of an airplane. But it's important for the media to not sensationalize cases like this, which they are already doing," Business & Media Institute Assistant Editor Nathan Burchfiel told Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney on the July 25 "Fox Business."
Burchfiel noted that British tabloids have already speculated that a bomb in the cargo hold may have blown a hole in the fuselage, even though there was no indication that's the case.
"This morning in the American media on ABC, David Muir said that the plane ‘instantly plummeted' 20,000 feet, which is not true," Burchfiel said. "The pilot descended 20,000 feet, rather sharply, but that was his decision, he did it under full control to normalize cabin pressure."
Co-host Harry Smith warned viewers about what might be "lurking inside" granite countertops - radioactivity.
"There's granite all over the place in modern kitchens, sometimes you have a little breakfast nook. You sit there; you may sit there hours and hours and hours in a day ... I mean some people have gone so far as to tear their kitchen counters out because of the concern," said Smith to Stanley Liebert, the quality assurance director at CMT Laboratories.
Liebert said radon gas, a "carcinogen gas that we inhale [that] causes lung cancer," is emitted from certain types of granite and could be harmful.
Smith showed some skepticism saying, "I'm having a difficult time getting my head around the idea that the countertops in your home might literally be dangerous." But he didn't include any representatives of the industry in the story.
The massive housing bailout bill, meant to prop up beleaguered government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) and help homeowners refinance adjustable rate mortgages, was praised in a segment on the CBS broadcast. It passed in the House July 23 and won't face resistance from President Bush.
"This afternoon, the House passed a bill that throws an estimated $25-billion lifeline to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae - the backbone of the home mortgage industry," CBS chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod said. "The bill makes it easier for both to raise unlimited capital from the government if needed and would allow hundreds of thousands of homeowners to refinance rather than face foreclosure."
The Biz Flog, the video blog over at the Business and Media Institute, takes at look at the effect the high cost of oil has had on the airline industry, and the effect that has had on passengers seeing higher ticket prices and fees.
Instead of focusing on and explaining the real causes of higher ticket prices, the media have accused the airline industry of trying to “nickel-and-dime” passengers.
On “MSNBC Live” July 9 host Tamron Hall gave a report on the quality of commercial airline travel, calling price increases “nickel-and-dime fees.”
“Passengers think they’re getting nickel-and-dimed,” host of the Today show, Matt Lauer said July 9 on the morning program. “All the things that were free on planes are now costing us.”
To CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" host, we live in a world of absolutes - because the potential of a government bailout of two publicly traded government-sponsored enterprises condemns the entire concept of free market capitalism.
On the July 22 broadcast of Dobbs' show, he attacked proponents of free-market capitalism because of the potential trouble of the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE).
"Well the - it's a, it's quite a mess, quite a mess indeed," Dobbs said. "And I love the idea that all these free traders, free marketeers now got to have the government to, to bail them out. If I hear one of these ignorant, hypocritical, sanctimonious free traders ever talk about free markets again, they should be pilloried. I mean they are absolutely - this is an administration of jerks and cowards and fools. I mean it's unbelievable."
Brian Wesbury, whose writings I have quoted often, is at it again, puncturing the economic gloom with reality-based analysis. Since his job is to provide useful info for the investor-clients at First Trust, creating unrealized hype is not in his best interest.
Washington Post's Marc Fisher devoted his July 22 column, "Law Reinforces Montgomery as a Nanny State" to pooh-poohing a recently-passed bill by the affluent, liberal Maryland county that borders the District of Columbia on its northwest side. Fisher leveled a charge that free-market advocates and conservative Marylanders would cheer regarding the new ordinance mandating that employers of nannies provide a written contract.
"This is a classic MoCo decision to make law as a political statement rather than as a remedy to a burning social need," Fisher complained, noting that "conditions for domestic workers in Montgomery are considerably better than in many other places."
What's more, if nannies don't like their work environment, "the proper remedy" would be "to quit and find other work," Fisher argued.
Sounds pretty conservative for a WaPo columnist, so what's the catch? Well, one of Fisher's qualms with the law's development was how it might make Montgomery County seem hostile to illegal immigrants:
Free market capitalism is a much-despised bogeyman to the mainstream media, as our friends at MRC's Business & Media Institute can attest.
So it's somewhat refreshing to find one article in a major media publication -- okay, it's actually Newsweek -- that seems to lament the entrepreneur-choking nature of government regulation.
Of course, the regulatory state in question happens to be the highly undemocratic Communist China, but in the July 28 edition article, "Taking Away Olympic Fun," Mary Hennock and Manuela Zoninsein lament that "Visitors to the Games will find the newly spruced-up Beijing cleaner -- and blander.":
“[T]he 1.5-million-acre tip of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is critical for the health of an ancient caribou herd,” weatherman Sam Champion said on the May 6 “Good Morning America.”
“It’s a safe haven for calving every spring. The same area is valuable for another reason. Underneath it lies billions of barrels of crude oil, as of yet untapped. Oil companies say drilling can be done without danger, but environmentalists disagree. They think drilling would devastate the land and its wildlife,” said Champion.
The Biz Flog, the video blog of the Business & Media Institute, for July 16 focused on what it would take to drill in ANWR and how long it would take the financial benefits to get back to consumers.
Specifically, Cheney's 2000 statement was that "we may well be on the front edge of a recession here," while Bush's 2001 claim was a milder "You know better than me that our economy is slowing down."
So what will be the reaction be to the Sunday assertion by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama that there's "little doubt" the country is in a recession, when no negative growth has occurred?
In the wake of former Sen. Phil Gramm's statements earlier this week about this being a nation full of whiners, the good folks at ABC's "Good Morning America" brought on a consumer psychologist Sunday to discuss whether or not the McCain advisor had a point.
Shockingly, not only did Kit Yarrow tell host Kate Snow that "the way consumers feel about things is very emotional," but also these "emotions are trumping reality" thereby creating a snowball which makes the economy worse.
Yarrow not only believes that things are "not as bad as consumers feel like it is," but also that the media are at fault because "everything is described as a crisis."
What follows is a partial transcript of this rather shocking and refreshing exchange (video available here, photo courtesy ABCNews.com):
When a horrible tragedy happens, media reports try to find a place to point the finger. Although, this time a company name is being tacked on to something they had nothing to do with.
Heparin is a generic drug made by many different companies that is used to thin blood. It has recently been involved in two accidents involving babies and media reports have unfairly connecting one company to both incidents.
Actor Dennis Quaid and his wife Kimberly are suing Baxter Healthcare Corp. They claimed the heparin blue labels could be confused with a less potent derivative, which reportedly led to the injury of their newborn children, according to Bloomberg.
On July 6, 17 babies in a hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, were given an overdose of the drug, resulting in the death of a set of twins. Although their deaths are still being investigated.
Media reports of the incident at Christus Spohn Hospital South in Texas have been tied in with Quaid's lawsuit against Baxter over heparin even though the two cases are unrelated and Baxter has confirmed it did not manufacture the heparin used in the Texas accident.
I hate to say I told you so, but what the heck. We did. The Business & Media Institute warned that Fannie Mae was a looming taxpayer-backed disaster - in 2005. Only the network news shows didn't like to tell you about it. An op-ed I wrote appeared in The New York Post under the headline: "The $30B Scandal That TV Forgot." I think $30 billion is small potatoes now. $100 billion is the number being used now.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are Government-Sponsored Entities, which means they are publicly listed yet still backed by taxpayers. They have also been mismanaged and embroiled in accounting fiascos. Fannie was run by prominent Democrats like former Chief Executive Officer Franklin Raines and former Vice Chairman Jamie Gorelick - both instrumental figures in the Clinton administration.
A Dec. 23, 2004, Washington Post article explained that Franklin Raines "was a director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton administration, and his name was mentioned as a possible Treasury Secretary had Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) been elected president."
As Congress takes new aim at speculators for the high price of gasoline, some media reports seem to be following suit. But as The Biz Flog explains this week, there is considerable debate over whether speculators should be blamed for the high cost of oil.
June 23, the same day Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee condemned oil speculators, the "CBS Evening News" and ABC's "World News" blamed oil speculation for a large chunk of the spike in prices.
"There's no doubt speculation plays a role in the skyrocketing price, but how much?" ABC correspondent Ryan Owens said June 23. "Experts say if it were just simple supply and demand a barrel would cost $75. Today it closed north of $135."
Scott Horsley explained oil speculation on June 29 for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," where he pointed out that there have always been financial players in the oil market and there is still a debate over what influence they really have.
Whether you are a Starbucks patron or not, no doubt you've heard that the Seattle-based coffee chain plans to close 600 "underperforming" stores and cut about seven percent of its workforce.
Job loss is certainly not something to cheer about, yet Reuters found a unique story to tell on July 6, 2008. No, this wasn't the sad tale of roughly 12,000 soon-to-be unemployed baristas. It was a morbid report about coffee snobs who take "grim delight in Starbucks woes."
Reuters' unbalanced report quoted eight critics of the global coffee seller, including those who are "happy" about the store closures.
"I'm so happy. I'm so not a Starbucks person,' said Melinda Vegliotti, sipping iced coffee at the Irving Farm Coffee House in New York. 'I believe in supporting small businesses. Starbucks, bye-bye,'" she told Reuters.
Only one "defender" of Starbucks was included in that story, and the meager praise he offered was that it is "convenient."
Although the collapse of Bear Stearns happened back in March, the debate still rages as to what led to the failure of the 85-year old investment bank that had survived years of previous turmoil, including the Great Depression.
"Well, you know, he [Dimon] said one thing that I'm just - listen, I didn't watch it," CNBC's Charlie Gasparino said, "I'm just going by what appears to be a transcript here: ‘Where there's smoke, there's fire.' Oh really? Sometimes where there's smoke, there's no fire, Jamie. I've got news for you."
Earlier this week, to avoid "undue" emphasis on how much the situation has been improving in Iraq, the press, in search of bad news, switched its focus to Afghanistan (examples here, here, and here). Kyle Drennen and Warner Todd Huston at NewsBusters noted this on Tuesday.
Similarly, Associated Press writer Ellen Simon, confronted with a key report showing economic improvement, decided that it was more important to discuss inflation.
On Tuesday, the Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing Index, after four months of contraction, returned to slight expansion mode with a reading of 50.2 (any reading above 50 indicates expansion). The result confounded the "experts," who predicted that the index would fall by about a point instead of rising by 0.6 points.
I don't think I've ever seen AP fail to give the overall ISM result first- or second-sentence treatment, but Simon managed that trick by covering the report's inflation component, moving the overall ISM index reading down to the fourth paragraph:
In any other industry, when revenues fall steeply, those in charge take at least a casual look at the quality of their product, and try to get a grip on whether it's meeting consumers' needs and expectations.
But that never seems to happen in the news business.
True to form, the New York Times's Richard Perez-Pena devoted over 850 words to the latest developments, and had nothing to say about product quality:
For newspapers, the news has swiftly gone from bad to worse. This year is taking shape as their worst on record, with a double-digit drop in advertising revenue, raising serious questions about the survival of some papers and the solvency of their parent companies.
Ad revenue, the primary source of newspaper income, began sliding two years ago, and as hiring freezes turned to buyouts and then to layoffs, the decline has only accelerated.
The network news outlets - ABC, CBS and NBC - have missed a great opportunity to cover actual political news in the last week by failing to report on the loan scandal surrounding two Democratic senators, Business & Media Institute Managing Editor Amy Menefee told "Fox & Friends Weekend" June 21.
"This story has everything," Menefee said. "It has a former presidential candidate, Chris Dodd. It has two senators who are getting, like you said, sweetheart loans. It has Kent Conrad, another senator, who called the CEO of the lender to get his loan, which is not what we normally do, and then said, ‘Oh, I didn't get any preferential treatment and I didn't do anything wrong, but I'm going to give a charitable donation to remedy the fact that I didn't do anything wrong.'"
Menefee said it was "very sad" that the networks failed to report the scandal - not just because they refused to go after two Democrats, but because they missed an opportunity to expose the bailout plan Dodd has been defending.
From the Disney-owned Web site that brought you concerns that college co-eds were foregoing textbooks to pay for birth control comes the latest tale of high gas price-induced economic woes.
"Nevada Brothels Hit Hard by Gas Prices," ABCNews.com trumpets in a teaser headline in the top headlines slideshow on its front page. The editors showed a bit more leg in the photo caption: "Owners fight back: free $50 gas cards for high-spending customers."
Here's some of the tale of woe from the article itself:
As the Silver State's fuel prices hit all-time highs, Nevada's brothel employees find it harder to make a living these days, leaving some people wondering whether they should stay in the business.
At the Stardust Ranch in eastern Nevada, bartender Cindy Howe says they're "down to only two girls. They don't want to come here because business is down."
Who says the Washington Post never reports the downsides of socialized medicine?
In a story below the fold on the June 23 Business section front page, staffers Kendra Marr and Ariana Eunjung Cha took a look at how a Bethesda, Md., company is setting out to make money by capitalizing on dissatisfaction with China's socialized medical system.
Marr and Cha look at how Bethesda-based Chindex International "is breaking into the heavily regulated Chinese health-care system by targeting the elite, who are willing to pay premium prices for premium care."
The Post staffers did try to put a bit of lipstick on the Communist medicine pig, but had to admit that the, um, efficiency of socialized medicine doesn't really provide that personal touch. You know, like private screening rooms:
While print media and cable news channels are all over the "sweetheart" mortgage deals given to two Democratic U.S. senators, network news shows on ABC, CBS and NBC are keeping mum even though the scandal involves one of their favorite targets: Countrywide.
"This is a huge story ever since Portfolio magazine broke with this story. Print media outlets have covered it, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, the cable networks are there," Business & Media Institute Vice President Dan Gainor told "Fox & Friends" June 20. "And then you look at the evening news shows: they're non-existent."
Survey question: If the media had the results of three independent surveys of corporate executives about the economy and two of them were more negative than the third, which one wouldn't get much coverage?
In the last few days, three such surveys have been released. Two of them - the Business Roundtable's quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Index and the Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook survey - got pretty good coverage in the media.
The third survey, conducted by the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, less so.
No wonder Barack Obama doesn't get challenged by the media on fundamentals -- y'know, things like how many states there are in the union (he says 57 or so), whether Illinois is closer to Kentucky than Arkansas (he says it's not), or whether Warren Buffett's income (!) is $56 billion (Obama seems to think that income and net worth are the same).
Apparently, some in the media have similar serious problems with basic economics and math.
Check out this from AFP about Americans' driving (bolds are mine):
On the one hand, I have to give the Washington Post some credit for its biased June 16 story about a new pro-life pharmacy set to open in northern Virginia this summer. Even with its less-than-fair treatment, it informs pro-life readers of a new pharmacy they may wish to patronize. Of course the store opening is worthy of news coverage for a number of reasons, such as the intersection of faith and professional ethics in health care, but unfortunately, staffer Rob Stein started right off the bat slanting coverage in a way to disparage the enterprise.
When DMC Pharmacy opens this summer on Route 50 in Chantilly, the shelves will be stocked with allergy remedies, pain relievers, antiseptic ointments and almost everything else sold in any drugstore. But anyone who wants condoms, birth control pills or the Plan B emergency contraceptive will be turned away.
The Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger got out the gloom-and-doom paint in his report on the Consumer Price Index on Friday morning.
Here are his opening paragraphs:
Inflation rate jumps by biggest amount in 6 months
Inflation shot up in May at the fastest pace in six months, pushed higher by soaring costs for gasoline and other types of energy.
The Labor Department reported Friday that consumer prices rose by 0.6 percent last month, the biggest one-month increase since last November, as gasoline costs surged by 5.7 percent. Food prices, which have also been rising sharply, were up 0.3 percent as the cost of beef and bakery products showed big gains.
Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, edged up a more moderate 0.2 percent in May. But even there, core prices are up 2.3 percent over the past 12 months, above the Federal Reserve's comfort zone.
Trouble is, the markets weren't buying into the negativity Crutsinger was selling, as SmartMoney.com reported after the closing bell:
It certainly wasn't surprising how press outlets desperately trying to depict the economy as depression-like in order to get Barack Obama in the White House were practically giddy following the dour jobs report released by the Labor Department last Friday.
What was shocking given the portion of May's unemployment rate rise attributed to high school and college students looking for summer jobs was that virtually no press outlets considered the impact last year's minimum wage hike might have had on young Americans finding temporary positions between school years.
Consider this op-ed published in Monday's Washington Examiner authored by Kristen Lopez Eastlick, the senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute (emphasis added throughout):