OLD Media Moves

Examining the NYTimes role in the economic turmoil

March 15, 2009

Clark Hoyt, the public editor of the New York Times, writes Sunday in response to reader’s complaints that the paper’s negative coverage about the economy has contributed to the current crisis.

Hoyt writes, “When the economy did go off the rails, The Times tried to keep the damage in perspective. For example, the government reported in January that more than 2.5 million jobs were lost last year. A four-column headline in The Wall Street Journal said it was the largest number since 1945. That was true, but the labor force in 2008 was so much larger that the comparison, which The Times did not make, was misleading.

“Similarly, as comparisons to the 1930s were tossed around, Leonhardt worked with economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to construct a broad measure of the job market, the best way to gauge the health of the economy. He found that as bad as things are, they still are not as bad as the recession of 1982, let alone the Great Depression.

“Last week’s economic news was mixed. The stock market, though still at half its peak, rallied, but General Electric’s debt was downgraded. General Motors said it would not need more money from the government this month. Retail sales were down, but not as much as expected. Production in exporting countries around the world is off by staggering amounts. The financial system is still filled with toxic waste from the mortgage meltdown, and the government still has not developed a clear plan for dealing with it.

“The trick for The Times is to keep it all in balance. Larry Ingrassia, the business editor, said: ‘I’ve always thought it important to divorce yourself from whether a story is going to be positive or negative. … Write it and let the chips fall where they fall.'”

Read more here.

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