OLD Media Moves

Economics news depresses readers

April 6, 2008

Ted Vaden, the public editor of The (Raleigh) News & Observer, writes Sunday about the recent complaints the paper has gotten about covering too much bad economics news.

EconomyVaden writes, “I won’t argue with the proposition that the media tend to focus on the negative. That could be a whole column. But there’s an overwhelming case to be made for reporting the hard truth. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke did tell Congress last week that recession is a possibility. Does the newspaper just ignore that?

“Business Editor Mary Cornatzer hears the bad-news plaint regularly. ‘I think we just try to be realistic,’ she said. ‘That’s our goal. We want to give people a realistic assessment. We’re not writing for corporate boards. We’re writing for their investors. We’re writing for their employees. We want people to be aware of how things are, how they stand, so they can be prepared to make decisions.’

“I talked to a couple of academic types to see if there’s any validity to the notion that negative press makes a bad economy worse. To some extent, that’s true, says N.C. State economist Michael Walden. ‘Consumers, if they don’t feel confident, won’t spend money, and that’s what we need to bring us out of a down cycle. There probably is some impact on consumer confidence of people reading about the state of the economy.’

“But, he said, ‘the media do not create economic issues. The situation that we’re in now — with the probability of a recession, the issues in the financial markets — those are created by other factors. We do have real economic issues.'”

Read more here.

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