OLD Media Moves

Why is the biz media skeptical about economic news?

October 27, 2021

Posted by Chris Roush

Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg Opinion writes Wednesday about the general negativity that surrounds economics news when covered by the business media.

Bernstein writes, “This matters because many in the media are reluctant to adjudicate claims from politicians and will settle for describing reality as halfway between whatever the parties say it is. So as long as Republicans say that President Joe Biden’s policies are a total disaster and Democrats say they’ve been successful, reporters will tend to average that out to mediocre, or perhaps a bit worse.

“But that’s before another media bias kicks in — which is that, as the old saw has it, All Economic News is Bad. That’s not literally true, but it’s not entirely off. A good example is when strong growth or employment numbers are reported as threats to the inflation rate. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; after all, incumbent parties are always talking up the economy, and it’s good to have some skepticism. But it does mean that reporters  may be slow to recognize good economic news when it happens. Or that something like a supply-chain disruption is interpreted less as a side effect of strong economic growth, and more as a sign of impending doom.

“I suggested this interpretation over Twitter, and received two more in return from Jonathan Chait of New York magazine. It’s certainly true, as he says, that Republican-aligned media is larger and louder than Democratic-aligned media; I’m not sure whether that has much of an effect on the “neutral” — that is, officially unaligned — press or not. Chait also suggests that Democratic presidents hesitate to claim too much credit for the economy because their strongest supporters may press them to recognize those still suffering, even when things are relatively good.”

Read more here.

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