There go 800,000 Jobs? Not Really.

Joseph at Straight Shot of Politics has decided that he is a consumer of news and information, while I and others like me are not so much consumers of news and informations as philosophers about how news should be reported.

When I saw this, I thought to myself, “Now I know why most blogger critics of news coverage [whatever their political views] and I are simply not on the same page!” I am interested in news. They are interested in “news coverage”. I am interested in fact. They are interested in “media”. I am interested in information. They are interested in a Philosophy of Journalism.

Not quite right, I think. Is it not possible for me and others and even the much-maligned Pajamas Media to care both about news and information and also care about how that information is disseminated?

For example, take this story on housing. Check out this headline: There Go 800,000 Jobs Out the Door.

OMG! 800,000 people have lost their jobs? That’s awful! I saw that headline and my heart skipped a beat and I read it with a sense of panic.

Except…aside from the headline which most will see and digest without ever reading the storythe thing has not happened. And if you read the story the thing may NEVER happen. The whole thing is a big “maybe someday this might happen, and if it does, then maybe as many as 800,000 people will lose their jobs, and never ever have a means of replacing them…but…even with these awful possibilities…it STILL won’t put us into a recession.”

Get this: The expected downturn in the housing market could end up costing 800,000 construction and finance jobs, putting a big dent in economic growth over the next two years, a report from UCLA said.

Yes, the “expected downturn” could “put a dent in economic growth…” Because what’s more important these days but talking down the economy or at least the public’s perception of it?

But even with economic growth slowing as much as 1 or 2 percentage points, the nation should be able to avoid a recession, according to the widely watched report from UCLA Anderson Forecast.

See that? “…even with economic growth slowing as much as 1 or 2 percentage points…” what a nefarious little line that is! If you are not aware that the economy has been growing by 3-4 points each quarter, you could read that as “even AS economic growth slows…” If you are only casually reading this piece you’re thinking things are going to hell in a handbasket!

The authors of the report admitted that they had forecast earlier this year that the slowdown in the housing market was going to start in mid-2005, which now looks like it was a little premature. But they noted that recent reports from home builders, real estate agents and the government indicate the slowdown may have now begun.”

May! MAY. Except last months figures were record breaking, and traditionally housing starts and resales now slumber a bit until February, but it MAY BE HAPPENING!

The report, released Wednesday, forecast a loss of 500,000 construction jobs and 300,000 jobs in the financial services sector from the housing slowdown, but noted that job losses would not spread across many industries, other than some limited pullbacks in manufacturing.

Unreal. The report, by people who haven’t gotten it right yet, is full of terrible news, but we still won’t be in a recession (dammit! And we’ve been trying so hard to talk America into one!). This is a big story full of nothing but supposition and guessing…but man, that headline -that’s a beaut, eh? And that story, real information, eh?

I crave news and information, too. That’s why I am so appreciative of sites like Gateway Pundit, and tons of blogs and some larger news outlets as well as some foreign news services.

But to suggest that how information is delivered is irrelevent is not quite playing the hand. That report could have been written about in a very different way.

Dr. Sanity, Via Bizzyblog gives us another example of news and information that is disseminated – if at all – in rather questionable light.

BizzyBlog reports on some extremely good economic news for Americans (news that made it into a Chinese newspaper, but not into any American paper except the WSJ:

In a separate editorial later in the week (requires subscription), The Journal noted that household net worth has increased $10 trillion since the Bush tax cuts took effect in 2003. That’s a 24% increase in roughly 2-1/2 years. The negative financing gap means that companies were, on the whole, able to finance their capital expansions out of profits instead of borrowing money or selling stock.

Ask yourself – would you have to look to a Chinese newspaper to get this information if, say the president had a D after his name, or if the president’s name ended in Clinton? Puh-leese! Before proclaiming that the “reading” of news is sublime while the examination of its deliverers is somehow vulgar, let’s at least acknowledge that all things are not equal. And uh, why isn’t this frontpage news, indeed?

I do agree with Betsy though, that the Bushies do a deplorable job of getting this news out.

Related: Times admits good economic news
The Rodney Dangerfield economy
“Despite?” Just Spite

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • david foster

    Here’s an analysis they might want to look at: The number of jobs that are going to be lost in the MSM if these institutions do not (a)substantially reduce the levels of political bias, and (b)begin to conduct their businesses with more astuteness, particularly with regard to the new media.

  • Joseph

    I would be perfectly willing to concede any and all of this. The CNN story is dreadful. And it’s dreadful exactly for the reasons you mention–it is not real news, it is about something that hasn’t happened.
    -This is why CNN doesn’t live on my blogroll links. And I would also agree that the stuff at BetsyBlog and BizzyBlog is real news, and that it is hard to get to, which is why I undertook the news research project in the first place. We must all sort out the sources if we are going to find out about this sort of thing.
    -That having been said, I would suggest you take a look at the Top Stories and the news feed selections over at the PJ’s. The first thing you will notice is that you do not see the economic stuff there either.
    -It would be profitable to ask why, since the point of “citizen journalism” among us bloggers is to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
    -It seems to me that you see a similar conflation on PJ of news with entertainment that you see in the CNN story headline. At CNN, the reason the story exists at all is so someone can write that shocking headline with the funny hook “out the door”.
    -At PJ’s the reason you don’t see the two very relevant stories cited is that they are not very entertaining. Not nearly as entertaining, say, as Narnia.
    -The problem of what gets covered in what order is a separate problem from what politics it gets framed with. There will always be a coverage order and there really is no objective and neutral standpoint from which to assert that a certain story “must” be on page 1.
    -The proof of the pudding is in the eating: the death of Richard Pryor is far ahead of the economic news in most places, whatever the politics, including your blog.
    -The reason that such a thing as the Wall Street Journal exists is so that Betsy’s news gets top or near top billing among the people who want to know more about it than about the death of Richard Pryor.
    -As for the political framing, that we always have with us. Over on PJ’s you will see a headline about the recent Chinese civil disturbance which says something like Trouble In The Worker’s Paradise.
    -There are certain among us who haven’t figured out yet that China is no longer the China that Nixon went to and that the very real problems we are going to have with China come far less from its Maoist past than from its free-market future.
    -No one who had been reading news about China with any kind of care over the past decade would have even considered writing a headline like that.
    -Bob & Charles’ politics has kept from doing that primary reading, by and large, or, indeed, I would guess, from even suspecting that China is going to be a problem at all.
    -There is no such thing as news coverage without a filter of political views. It simply doesn’t exist, because human beings without political views don’t exist.
    -All you can ask is where you can get through to the information in spite of the filiters. You can do this better at some places than others. I’ve made my suggestions where. Do you, Dr. Sanity, or Betsy have any suggestions of your own?

  • stephanie

    Hyperbole in order to attract readers is nothing new. And it’s far from infrequent that the story is far, far better than the title would imply. But it was like that 10 years ago, too. It was like that 15 years ago. There is political bias- more so in some places than in others- but overall, I think conservatives exaggerate. It’s more about ratings than politics.

  • david foster

    People read media for reasons other than politics; for example, people read stories about the economy for investing and financial planning reasons. If I saw a headline “There Go 800,000 Jobs Out the Door,” and then read the article that goes with it, I’d be pissed, and my respect meter for that media source would go down.

    Media executives have decision to make: What matters more, the long-term credibility of your brand, or (a)a transient attention-getter, and/or (b)hyping the personal political views of those who run the company?

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