Someone forgot to tell the Wall Street Journal's Kelly Evans and Justin Lahart, carried here at the Arizona Republic, that they're supposed to portray the economy in a bad light whenever and wherever possible. I'll get to the pair's report later.
That "bad light" directive seems seared into the minds of the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger and his AP colleagues, as they continue to "cling to recession," and attempt to convince consumers and businesses that if perchance we're not already in one, it's just around the bend.
The AP's persistence has borne dreadful fruit. Relentlessly downbeat reporting during at least the past six years by the wire service's business reporters -- who largely determine what most Americans see, hear, and read about the economy -- is a big reason, if not the most important reason, why most Americans, as seen in the latest consumer confidence report, have a negative economic outlook and are convinced that we are in a recession.
Six days after Wall Street Journal's Jose de Cordoba and Jay Solomon published their front-pager, "Chávez Aided Colombia Rebels, Captured Computer Files Show," the Washington Post turned out its coverage of the development by staffer Juan Forero, who pulled a few punches by failing to directly finger Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez:
CARACAS, Venezuela, May 14 -- High-ranking officials in Venezuela offered to help Colombian guerrillas obtain surface-to-air missiles meant to change the balance of power in their war with the Colombian government, according to internal rebel documents.
By comparison, de Cordoba and Solomon brought the Venezuelan dictator front-and-center with their May 9 lede:
BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- A cache of controversial computer files closely tying Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez to communist rebels seeking to topple Colombia's government appear to be authentic, U.S. intelligence officials say.
How do you write an article about Uncle Sam's April financial results without telling readers how much money came in and went out -- especially if what came in was an all-time record?
Yesterday and today, many journalists have shown us how. Two of them are Martin Crutsinger of the Associated Press and Michael M. Phillips of the Wall Street Journal.
Crutsinger's AP report actually made it appear as if collections is the problem area. In fact, as you will eventually see after the jump, April's result had nothing to do with "dampening" revenue growth, and everything to do with exploding spending.
Interviewed for the "View from the Top" feature in the May 9 Financial Times, NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker praised CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric, formerly with NBC's "Today" show. Zucker also dismissed any notion that he regretted not buying the Wall Street Journal.
Here's an excerpt (portion in italics to denote questions by Financial Times):
You worked with Katie Couric [host of NBC's Today for 15 years, now CBS Evening News anchor] for a long time. Would you take her back?
I don't know that Katie's available so it's not really my place to say, but Katie remains one of the most talented journalists of her generation and somebody who would be an asset to whatever news division, whatever organisation she worked in. So we would always welcome somebody of Katie's ability and stature, but that's not . . . on the cards any time in the near future.
Old Media business reporters have a definitionally-incorrect habit of labeling single industries or economic sectors as being "in recession," when the term, as defined here, can only describe national economies or the world economy. Two examples of this are New York Times reporter David Leonhardt's description of manufacturing as being in recession in February 2007 (laughably incorrect, in any event), and the Times's employment of the term "housing recession" 25 times since October 2006, as seen in this Times search (with the phrase in quotes).
But if I wanted to be consistent with this routine form of journalistic malpractice, I would characterize the newspaper business -- at least in terms of the top 25 in the industry's food chain -- not as being in recession, but instead as going through a deep, dark, painful, protracted depression.
Let's say the year is 2006 and you're the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. A story breaks that you "received donations from an Alabama contractor" but you flatly deny it has anything to do with "a $2.6 million no-bid contract for the company in a national defense bill."
There's no doubt, particularly given the media's Republican "culture of corruption" meme that year that your party registration and chairmanship of the intel committee would be front-and-center when reporting the story.
But fast forward two years and that's precisely what the El Paso Times withheld from readers in the case of hometown congressman Silvestre Reyes. Rep. Reyes (D-Texas) has chaired the Intelligence Committee since Democrats regained the majority in the House of Representatives in January 2007, yet neither his influential post as chairman nor his Democratic party affiliation were mentioned by reporter Ramon Bracamontes in an April 16 article (h/t Peter DeNitto).
Bracamontes cited a Reyes statement denying allegations of impropriety:
The conspiracy theory that Rupert Murdoch would ruin The Wall Street Journal with his tabloid conservatism is even struggling on the Journal's traditionally conservative editorial pages. The Journal's newly redesigned pages will now feature a weekly column from leftist cultural analyst Thomas Frank to underline "what's on the mind of the American left." Frank is by no means the first leftist on those pages, for anyone who can recall Michael Gartner (who also became president of NBC News), but it does frustrate the Rupert's Right-Wing Ruination spin.
Frank's inaugural column took some credit for Obama's San Francisco declaration that the voters have bitterness and cling to their guns and religion and xenophobia instead of noticing their class interests. Frank dutifully unloaded on conservatives:
Interesting media news this Monday as Newsweek takes a look at the coming war between the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The mag's piece in turn sparked a newspaper industry news boomlet as other publications rushed to find out whether Newsweek's claim that liberal Democrat Republican New York mayor Michael Bloomberg might give the New York Times Company a cash infusion to "protect the brand."
Not so, says Bloomberg, who denied the claim that he was trying to get into the newspaper biz or purchase a share in Times Co.
An excerpt from the excellent Newsweek piece that started it all is below the fold...
Remember the brouhaha the liberal media made out of Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham mocking "Barack Hussein Obama" at a McCain fundraiser, which McCain quickly rejected? Now the same thing (only bigger) has happened on the left. Radio Equalizer reports that at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Fargo on Friday that Obama later addressed, nationally syndicated liberal talk show host Ed Schultz slammed John McCain as a "warmonger." On Saturday, the Obama campaign repudiated the comment. But will the same networks that played up the Cunningham remarks (say, CNN) have the same fervor for the Obama-punts-Schultz story?
The Equalizer expects flying fur on the left: "While Obama is clearly looking to the general election and what will be expected of him, this is likely to go over about as well with the left as the suspension of Randi Rhodes by Air America. Don't expect Schultz to let this go without a fight."
It will make Monday's Schultz show worth sampling. From AP, which had the decency to employ the L word to describe Ed:
People are figuring Hillary Clinton out. And that's a problem. At least, it is if you're Hillary Clinton. That's a theme of Peggy Noonan's Wall Street Journal column of today, Getting Mrs. Clinton. Along the way, the indispensable Ms. Noonan dispenses numerous valuable insights into Hillary's persona. From our NewsBusters perspective, of particular interest were these paragraphs on the way the MSM has come to view her, and vice versa [emphasis added].
Many in the press get it, to their dismay, and it makes them uncomfortable, for it sours life to have a person whose character you feel you cannot admire play such a large daily role in your work. But I think it's fair to say of the establishment media at this point that it is well populated by people who feel such a lack of faith in Mrs. Clinton's words and ways that it amounts to an aversion. They are offended by how she and her staff operate. They try hard to be fair. They constantly have to police themselves.
Not that her staff isn't policing them too. Mrs. Clinton's people are heavy-handed in that area, letting producers and correspondents know they're watching, weighing, may have to take this higher. There's too much of this in politics, but Hillary's campaign takes it to a new level.
On Wednesday, Fox News became the first news network to pick up on the contradiction between claims made by Senator Hillary Clinton about her 1996 trip to Bosnia and the reality reported by journalists at the time. In a speech on Monday, Clinton asserted that “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”
But no news outlet mentioned sniper fire at the time, and TV news footage from the day of Clinton’s visit, which was first posted Tuesday on NewsBusters, shows Clinton and her daughter walking around without helmets, greeting various people including the acting President of Bosnia and a Bosnian child who read a little speech for the then-First Lady.
Ken Shepherd of NewsBusters posted Tuesday on Editor and Publisher's March 11 article listing the four-year circulation changes at the nation's top 20 newspapers, concentrating on the 20% loss at the Los Angeles Times during that period.
What's also compelling is that the Top 20 really has three winners and 17 losers during that four-year time frame, as the chart that follows demonstrates:
After Environmental Protection Agency Chief Stephen Johnson's appearance before Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's powerless House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, CBS decided to dole out its own criticism of the EPA.
"Congressional Democrats took the gloves off against the EPA today, accusing the agency's chief, Stephen Johnson, of stalling all regulation on global warming," CBS correspondent Wyatt Andrews said. "Johnson knew this reckoning was coming. Despite his own promise to issue new regulations last year, despite a Supreme Court order 11 months ago for the EPA to act on greenhouse gases, and despite the president's own order last May."
It's not exactly a secret that John McCain is not admired by conservatives for a variety of reasons.
The conventional wisdom is that the Arizona Senator and GOP presidential nominee needs to mend some, uh, fences (warning: profanity at link) with many in his party.
Fair enough, but a word to the wise, and this is relevant regardless of personal ideology: If either McCain himself, or anyone who wishes to give him a fair shake, thinks Old Media is going to help them out, they're sadly mistaken. The candidate is going to have to go around the media types he may still believe are his friends. Voters in general should not be satisfied saying, "Well, I haven't seen or heard anything from him," because Old Media will work to minimize his visibility.
Doesn’t look like an olive branch to me. Writing in today’s (Tuesday's) Wall Street Journal, novelist and sometime Republican activist Mark Helprin (not to be confused with Time magazine’s Mark Halperin) takes a series of insulting personal shots at the radio talk show hosts who’ve criticized John McCain for his numerous anti-conservative positions.
Helprin, whose last big political job was working as an advisor to Bob Dole in 1996, calls hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity “hairdressers [who] can talk all day long to one client as they snip...the depth of their thought is truly Oprah-like,” even as Ann Coulter is “relentlessly crocodilian.” For what it's worth, Helprin’s Wikipedia entry calls him a “conservative commentator.”
Well, this will send the Kossacks into a tizzy! The Wall Street Journal has an op-ed by Dan Gerstein, "Decline of the Angry Left." Gerstein, a senior adviser for Joe Lieberman's various national campaigns, claims that the Daily Kos is finished as a mover and shaker in Democratic politics. After reading it over I think he is dead on with much of his analysis. The anger of the extremist, left as seen on a daily basis on the Daily Kos site has lost the contest for the hearts and minds of the Democratic Party. As Gerstein notes, he has been the target of the left before and this op ed certainly won't make him their newest American idol!
In fact, Gerstein might not make himself very welcome in many Democratic circles all the way 'round with his denigration of the party leadership at this time.
Recession stories have a lot in common with global warming stories - there are a lot of them and you hear only one side. And like global warming, recession is the subject of a Newsweek cover story, appearing on the front of the magazine's February 4 issue.
"The Great Global Market Freak-Out of 2008 has everyone asking whether the United States - already on the road to recession - is entering into a protracted period of economic trouble where jobs will be slashed, prices will continue to rise and the dollar will keep falling; and if so, whether the declining U.S. economy will pull the rest of the world down with it," Gross wrote. "A recession is defined as a widespread contraction in economic activity lasting more than a few months, and because of the lag in financial data, recessions typically aren't officially declared until long after they start. In short, the United States could already be in one."
After the Fed made an "emergency" 75-basis-point rate cut this morning, CNBC's "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer, who has gone from bull market cheerleader to bear market doom and gloomer in the last six months, said it was too little too late.
"[T]his is obviously the kind of action I was most fearful of - which is that they would have to go panic and that they would get way behind the curve," Cramer said on CNBC's January 22 "Squawk Box." "But, you know but once they do it, I'm less ... I can't hammer them as much. This is the kind of action if they had done it three months ago, we would have been safe."
On MSNBC's January 18 "Hardball," Cramer predicted the Dow Jones Industrial Average would decline 2,000 points over the next couple of weeks. However, he was a little less pessimistic after this rate cut.
The headline "The Economy Sucks" might be something you'd expect to see in Rolling Stone or on Slate.com, but certainly not in a reputable news magazine, right?
Yet, the January 21 issue of Newsweek defied expectations by using that for part of a headline for a one-sided, pro-Bill Clinton view of the economy. The article recalled the 1992 "It's the economy, stupid!" campaign as it tore down the current economy.
So, why does the economy "suck" according to Newsweek? It isn't that there's a depression looming or that we're in recessionary times, we're just "perilously close to sliding into a recession."
"Today, the nation is perilously close to sliding into a recession; in '92, the economy had already started growing, though a jobless recovery doomed George H.W. Bush's re-election bid anyway," Gross wrote. "The lesson? Voters' perceptions matter more than whether the economy is technically expanding or contracting."
You might disagree with how he slashed the Fed funds rate during times of economic turmoil as Federal Reserve chairman.
You might have even disavowed him after showing his coziness with the Clinton administration throughout the 1990s. But after 18 years of public service, you can't deny that Alan Greenspan should have a shot in the private sector.
"No, I don't think we're going to hit recession, but it's going to feel like it," Welch said. "Things are slowing down dramatically, as everyone knows. But I think we'll weather this thing and the global economy will keep us alive. So, we will not have a technical recession, but it will sure as hell feel like one."
Though Uncle Sam did run a surplus last month, the year-to-date figures are alarming:
It should be pretty clear that the big news in the above figures is that federal spending during the first quarter of the fiscal year was almost 9% higher than during the first quarter a year ago. If the spending increase had been held to only 5%, this fiscal year's quarterly deficit would have come in virtually the same as last year's.
Yet it took these publications the following number of paragraphs to get to the year-to-date spending news:
"As 2008 begins, house prices are still skidding, bank losses are still mounting, oil is again flirting with $100 a barrel and consumers are buying less as prices rise," the editorial said. "To many, the wheels appear to be coming off the economy. To others, including President Bush and his aides, the economy is fundamentally sound and resilient."
The dispute over Indiana's voter ID law that is headed to the Supreme Court in January is as much a partisan political drama as a legal tussle.
On one side are mainly Republican backers of the law, including the Bush administration, who say state-produced photo identification is a prudent measure intended to cut down on vote fraud. Yet there have been no Indiana prosecutions of in-person voter fraud — the kind the law is supposed to prevent.
On the other side are mainly Democratic opponents who call voter ID a modern-day poll tax that will disproportionately affect poor, minority and elderly voters — who tend to back Democrats. Yet, a federal judge found that opponents of the law were unable to produce evidence of a single, individual Indiana resident who had been barred from voting because of the law.
A subscription-only editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Monday propagated a carefully-worded whopper, but at least made a small change to the paper's insufferable 23-year "There Shall Be Open Borders" mantra (bolds are mine):
A recent paper by the Immigration Policy Center, an advocacy group, notes that "Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native born." Today, immigrants on balance are five times less likely to be in prison than someone born here.
None of this is to argue that illegal immigration doesn't have costs, especially in border communities and states with large public benefits. In the post-9/11 environment, knowing who's in the country is more important than ever. That's an argument for better regulating cross-border labor flows, not ending them.
The Immigration Policy Center's use of 100 years averages things out quite a bit, doesn't it?
According to MasterCard SpendingPulse, retail sales were up 3.6 percent during the holiday season - 2.4 percent excluding gas prices. But because it's not as big an increase as recent years have produced, the media reported it as bad news.
On NBC's "Nightly News," reporter Savannah Guthrie announced a "dramatic" 2.4 percent decrease in women's clothing sales. She didn't think the same percentage increase was "dramatic," however. Instead, she referred to the overall sales increase as "disappointing."
Other media labeled the figures "dismal," "small," "weak," "bleak" and "a clear sign that the economy is slowing down." Most made sure to point out, like "Good Morning America's" Ryan Owens, that the increase is "the smallest in four years."
When Larry Summers suggested in early 2005 that, as paraphrased by Slate's William Saletan, "innate differences between the sexes might help explain why relatively few women become professional scientists or engineers," the outcry was immediate, furious, and went to saturation level virtually overnight. The controversy ultimately led to his resignation a year later as Harvard President.
On Wednesday, Mr. Summers, a Democrat who was once Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, made a recommendation in his area of expertise -- that is, that a tax cut would be a good idea to protect against a possible recession. (Yours truly doesn't believe that a recession is anywhere near occurring. But hey, I've said since May, and several times since [here, here, and here, among others] that a tax cut is needed anyway to keep the economy chugging along at a good rate. So if panicked pols want to enact a tax cut for the wrong reason, I'll take it.)
Old Media reaction to Summers has been virtual silence.
Yes, the viciousness is being directed at Democrats for not being spendthrift enough.
It's too early to tell whether President Bush and congressional Republicans have outmaneuvered the Democratic congressional majority, but it's looking that way. Old Media doesn't like it, and their inability to successfully buck up their side, one bit.
In the Washington Post's "Dems Blaming Each Other For Failures," Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane are clearly critical: