OLD Media Moves

Biz media using “job killer” phrase more often and without attribution

June 19, 2012

Posted by Chris Roush

Media stories with the phrase “job killer” rose dramatically after Barack Obama was elected president, particularly after he took office, according to research from two professors.

The number of stories with the phrase “job killer” increased by 1,156 percent between the first three years of George W. Bush’s administration (16 “job killer” stories) and the first three years of the Obama administration (201 “job killer” stories), found Peter Dreier of Occidental College and Christopher Martin of the University of Northern Iowa.

In more than 90 percent of the stories alleging that a government policy was or would be a “job killer,” the media failed to cite any evidence for this claim or to quote an authoritative source with any evidence for this claim, the study found.

“The news media, by failing to seek to verify allegations made about government policies and proposals, typically act more like a transmission belt for business, Republican, and conservative sources than an objective seeker of truth when it comes to the term ‘job killer,'” wrote the authors.

The two professors analyzed all stories in which the phrase “job killer” appeared from 1984 to 2011 in four major news organizations — the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and the Washington Post. There were 381 total stories written that contained the phrase “job killer” and its variations.

The AP news service had 115 stories, the Times had 55 stories, the Journal had 151 stories and the Post had 60 stories.

The Journal was the most likely of the four news organizations to deploy “job killer” as conventional wisdom, with no attribution. The Journal used sourceless “job killer” in 45 stories, or about 30 percent.

The Times did so in eight stories, or about 14.5 percent of its stories using the phrase. The AP used the term in five stories without attribution, or about 4 percent of its stories, while the Post used a sourceless “job killer” five times, or about 8 percent of its stories.

The study found no correlation between the frequency of the phrase “job killer” and the unemployment rate. Instead, “job killer” allegations correspond much more closely with political cycles.

If you would like a copy of the study, email croush@email.unc.edu.

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