Economic growth has stagnated so far this year, catching the broadcast news networks inexplicably off guard yet again.
The federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced April 29 that gross domestic product (GDP) expansion slowed to only 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015. This meant the goods and services produced by the United States economy grew only minimally, lagging far behind growth in the previous two quarters.
Economists “had expected growth of 1 [percent] in the first three months of this year,” The Wall Street Journal said. This more optimistic estimate still trailed behind 5 percent in the third quarter of 2014 and 2.2 percent in the fourth.
The broadcast news networks ignored this disappointing news on their morning news shows April 29, even though most economic experts had seen the announcement coming.
“Everyone knows the U.S. economy grew at a snail's pace in the first quarter,” USA Today said April 28, the day before the official announcement. But even USA Today overshot GDP growth, promoting predictions that GDP would increase between 0.5 percent and 1.1 percent. The paper noted that “if the number surprises to the downside,” it “could roil [stock] markets.”
Instead of covering the GDP announcement, NBC’s Today committed eight minutes, 25 seconds uninterrupted to a daredevil stunt on the Orlando Eye. CBS’s This Morning spent more than 13 minutes on set with comedian John Oliver. ABC’s Good Morning America aired a four minute, five second segment about how to survive on a desert island.
When it comes to poor GDP announcements, the networks have a history of burying their heads in the sand. In June 2014, BEA revised last year’s first quarter GDP growth downward to -2.9 percent. But among the network newscasts, only CBS’s Evening News covered the story during the following 24 hours. Even then, Evening News dedicated a minimal one minute, five seconds to the downward revision.
ABC and NBC evening broadcasts skipped the previous three consecutive GDP announcements that showed the economy shrinking in the first quarter. But all three evening programs reported it when the economy grew at an estimated 4 percent in the second quarter of 2014.