Day After Skipping Good Economic News, ABC & NBC Highlight Bad

A night after ABC's World News and the NBC Nightly News didn't air a word about the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doubling to 1.9 percent in the second quarter, up from 0.9 percent in the first, the two evening newscasts found newsworthy a rise in the unemployment rate, with NBC using the increase to segue to a story on how “a growing number of Americans are...being downsized from full-time work to part-time.” Fill-in ABC anchor David Muir announced:
We're going to turn this evening now to the unemployment report out today which shows a new flurry of pink slips in July. Employers cut 51,000 jobs last month, as the unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent. This marks the seventh month in a row with job losses.
NBC anchor Brian Williams, with “Hard Times” on screen, reported:
On the jobs front, the employers cut their payrolls for the seventh straight month in July, total of 51,000 jobs were shed just last month, bringing the total for the year so far to almost half a million. Unemployment rate jumped two-tenths of a percent to 5.7, that's now a four-year high. A growing number of Americans are struggling on the job front even though they're not unemployed. Instead, they're being downsized from full-time work to part-time. That report from NBC's Rehema Ellis.
My July 31 NewsBusters item, “CBS Turns Doubled GDP into 'Disappointing' News, ABC & NBC Silent,” recounted:
Second quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doubled to 1.9 percent, up from 0.9 percent in the first quarter, the Commerce Department announced Thursday morning as consumer spending rose 1.5 percent in the quarter ending June 30, up from 0.9 percent in the first quarter, and U.S. exports soared 9.2 percent, way up from 5.1 percent in the first three months of 2008.

Yet the CBS Evening News centered a story around "disappointing" news about the supposedly "struggling economy" (with that on screen) -- while ABC and NBC, which on April 30 led with full stories on the news of a 0.6 percent (since revised to 0.9) first quarter GDP, didn't utter a syllable Thursday night about the big GDP jump. On the last day of April, ABC's Betsy Stark declared the economy had "flat lined" and NBC anchor Brian Williams warned "it's getting rough out there" as the new GDP number "stops just short of the official declaration of a recession." Thursday night, however, ABC's World News and NBC Nightly News made time for full stories on outrage over ExxonMobil earning "the largest profit ever made by a U.S. company." The "oil industry says it is not out of line, but some motorists feel otherwise."

CBS anchor Katie Couric, picking up on the 4th quarter 2007 GDP revision from 0.6 percent to a minus 0.2, stressed how "the government now says the economy was receding, not growing, in the final quarter of last year" though "it picked up a bit in the first quarter of this year." She then twisted the fresh news of a 1.9 percent jump into a negative: "But look at this: In the second quarter, when all those rebate checks were supposed to stimulate the economy, it grew less than two percent. Jeff Glor has more about the disappointing numbers."

Preferring an anecdote to factual data analysis, Glor started his story with how "you'll have a hard time convincing Paula Corletto the economy is growing" since "she and her eight-year-old daughter Leandra," both of whom CBS showed shopping for clothes, "now limit their shopping to only one day a week."

A full screen CBS News chart incorrectly listed first quarter GDP growth at 0.6 percent. In fact, the July 31 press release from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis announcing the second quarter number, stated: "In the first quarter, real GDP increased 0.9 percent."

The initial report on April 30 put first quarter GDP at 0.6 percent, but last month it was revised upward to 0.9 percent....
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center