OLD Media Moves

A different take on the Pew study of economics coverage

October 5, 2009

Daniel Indiviglio of The Atlantic says that the study from the Pew Research Center’s Project For Excellence In Journalism on economic coverage simply states the obvious — the big media only cover the big stories and ignore the consumer.

Indiviglio writes, “Journalists have a natural inclination to cover the cause and solution of a problem. In this case, the cause was the financial crisis. Thus, a lot of banking coverage makes perfect sense. The solution was the bailout and stimulus; so again, it’s sensible that this would be covered. The auto industry was a part of the bailout, and the two big bankruptcies were pretty newsworthy for obvious reasons. Again, new outlet’s attention to this should not shock anyone.

“So why not more on unemployment? Well, there isn’t a lot you can say about it. You can analyze the trends a little, but at some point all a journalist can do is shrug. When the economy is bad, unemployment follows. That’s economics.

“Why didn’t they dig into more human interest stories related to unemployment? For the same reasons the big national news outlets cover Congress in favor of state legislatures: that’s local news territory. Pew’s sample focused on major news sources. But even the local news outlets will have trouble with in-depth coverage of local issues these days, since their staffs are dwindling. They’re also relying more heavily on the Associated Press, which gravitates towards national coverage. This same logic applies to why ‘Effect on State and Local Govt’ and ‘Average Americans’ wasn’t higher.

“So what about housing? That was a cause of the recession, yet it didn’t come close to some of the other big ones. I’d argue that there probably wasn’t a whole lot new to report on this during the first half of the year — when the study was done. By January, the housing market was already scrapping the bottom. It has shown some signs of life lately, but there hasn’t been that much news to really report on that front. The housing story was really 2007-2008.”

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