Does the media’s approach to news about the economy make the economy worse?

The news media are providing extensive coverage of economics news as markets react to the U.S. credit downgrade, unemployment remains high and the housing market continues to struggle. Today’s Question: Does the media’s approach to news about the economy make the economy worse?

  • Clark

    Yes, of course they make it worse. They concentrate on the negative whether the economy, weather, crime, traffic, journalism is a joke today. They don’t make ratings by concentrating on the positive, only on the negative. Oh, and I forget, it’s all the fault of W?

  • Hiram

    Media has a “he said, she said bias”. They cover what people say, as opposed to what is actually happening to a greater extent than they should maybe. Washington, and the media that covers it, saw our current crisis in terms of debt.. Since that’s the way our politicians saw, and talked about it, that’s the way it was reported. Turns out, the crisis wasn’t about debt at all. Rather it was about equity, growth and jobs,something the media, and the rest of us, are now only beginning to understand.

  • crystalmille

    So how can you get in on this expansion of the clean, mean and “green” industries? By getting a “green” job that pays handsomely, of course you need a degree from universities like “High Speed Universities”.

  • Hiram

    “So how can you get in on this expansion of the clean, mean and “green” industries? ”

    I am not a big green guy myself. I will take any form of expansion. But quite frankly, what we are looking at now has been a long time in coming. The basic problem the economy has is the aging of the population, and that’s something we have foreseen for decades, but have done too little about.. We took a wrong turn in excessively incentivizing the financial industry. Too many smart kids saw that they could make a vast fortune shuffling paper, rather than doing something productive. We wasted too much money pushing on economic strings, tax cuts that didn’t stimulate production, and that are swept away in periodic financial crashes. We allowed 9/11 to take away our confidence in ourselves and the future. Lately, we allowed our national policy to be set by a destructive and nihilistic minority.

    It’s all going to need some work.

  • Hiram

    The damage was done, when raising the debt ceiling, raising the issue of whether or not America should dishonor itself, became a real political issue. At that point, in political terms, America was no longer a top rated nation.

    The debt deal itself, was part of problem. It signaled that America was no longer able to address it’s real problems, slow growth and high unemployment. What is clear enough now is that the debt deal, in the event that it is fully implemented, will worsen those problems, and of course increase rather than lower the debt.

    In this crisis, we allowed a small but vocal minority use the peculiarities of our political system to advance their own destructive and nihilistic agenda, and that scares the dickens out of people.

    I am a big fan of tv shows like “24”, and “MI 5”. A common element of these shows is the villain who wants to destroy the world in order to save it. The guy who feels our society is so corrupt and evil that it must be swept away, allowing a new society to be built on the ruins. The tea party is like that. Such a pity there is no real life Jack Bauer to thwart them.

  • Lou

    No – it doesn’t make it worse. The media does a poor job of challenging the statements that are made by politicians as they leave it up to fact-checking organizations such as http://www.politifact.com to check for the accuracy of these statements. The lack of credibility that politicians display should be a major concern during interviews and politicians should be asked why the public should believe them when they have a history of lying about facts.

  • Al

    Many media outlets have decided to abandon reporting the news and take an active role in making news themselves, acting as mouthpieces for one side or the other. Therefore, yes, a number of media outlets have had a role in making the economy worse.

  • Harry Johnson

    I believe that media reports do influence the economic situation. Economic indicators go down, the media reports on it, then the speculators, the fund managers and commodities future speculators get the information and decide that it is not a good time to act. Then the media reports on that. It is a closed loop and it seems to be continuously running at this point in time.

    How to break the loop?

  • Hiram

    “Many media outlets have decided to abandon reporting the news and take an active role in making news themselves, acting as mouthpieces for one side or the other.”

    We could use more of that. But as I see it, the problem is that much of the media isn’t biased enough. They do safe reporting, merely repeating what each side says, acting in effect, as mouthpieces for both sides, not adding to the understanding of either.

    And of course, there is the dreadful bias toward balance, the “Hitler was a bad guy, but he built some great roads” style of journalism, that makes the lives of reporters easier, but fails to convey much of the truth of any given story.

  • uptownZombie

    I think it’s more about the personality traits that exist in everyone. The media may say the positives and negatives in a single story, some people will focus on only one of those and some people will see both sides. Sometimes the people that only focus on one are the “investors” that everyone keeps talking about.

    a trickle-down economy doesn’t work. the media is not to blame here, and HUGE housing bubble that many of us saw coming is the ultimate cause of everything that is occurring now. And people are so afraid of the fact that their houses are still over-valued that they don’t want to spend money. In order to true-up things basically millions of people need to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that’s just not going to happen. Welcome to the future, it’s bleak.

  • Larry M.

    I believe that the sensationalism of current “journalism” is hurting the economy as well as an ongoing nation centric viewpoint Americans have. The downgrade of the U.S. government is only one piece of the current slide in the markets with the debt problems of Spain and Italy, as well as the riots in London playing bigger roles. People have actually been buying U.S.A. bonds (“downgraded’U.S. debt) as a safe haven from the volatile and often irrational markets. But with that said I think that the reporting about the downgrade has in a way has been under reported that it was actually the political theater of the far right that was the trigger of the downgrade.

  • Philip

    I’ll go ask Chicken Little.

  • J

    It isn’t the whole fault of the “media” per-say, though the 24 hour news cycle with everything repeated over and over can’t help. It is that the average Jane Six-pack goes crazy because she hears bad news all the time. One of my favorite stats (to the best of my memory) is that because parents hear about child abduction all the time on the TV, they never let their kids outside, especially unmediated, but your kid has a greater chance of being eaten by a shark while being hit by a bolt of lightning than being abducted and even those that do, 90% of those are abducted by a family member … and this is just one example.

  • LM

    Absolutely. I believe that the fear-mongering “Chicken Little” coverage of current events acts the way Ouija-board players act on the board. “Look! Look! We asked if the sky was falling, and indeed, we’ve found some people who say it might be falling, or could be falling. And now that we’ve found them, we are SURE it must be falling. So now let’s report that it’s falling. Oh no–look! The board is spelling D I S A S T E R!” Etc. etc.

    Just look at today’s Pioneer Press headline story: “Running Scared: DC is in gridlock, Europe in turmoil, Wall Street in a panic.”

    We’re running scared only because you all keep telling us that “everyone” is.

  • Kraig

    I think the media is all about fear, It is fear of change, fear of the unknown and fear of anything that drives us to watch. We purchase out of fear and we are slaves to the fear that the news generates. News outlets generally feed the fear to build their ratings and ad revenues. We have to break the cycle of fear and half truths that we are being fed so we can move on.

  • Amy

    Absolutely – the media’s approach to news about the economy make the economy worse!

  • Absolutely there’s a connection between what we hear and see in the media and how we feel and, in turn, act. We live in the stories we tell ourselves, especially the ones we tell over and over. When pessimistic stories of economic failings and falterings headline news day after day, hour after hour, we live in that story. It seems to be true — there is much to worry about and fear. But the trouble is, even if a story was true yesterday or is true even today, tomorrow can’t be any different if we continue to live inside of old stories.

    One of the challenges moving forward will be how to properly digest all of the stories around us. With news popping up on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs — in addition to T.V., radio, and newspapers, it’s possible to read a hundred different sides to a given story. Is that useful? With a story like the recent (and arguably excessive) debates in Congress over the national debt, the constant media coverage seemed only to fan the flames of the political arguments. Is primetime television coverage really necessary

    Of course, an engaged public is the foundation of a working democracy. But engaged how? Most stories only engage our reactive emotions, like fear and anger. When every story is “crisis” or “breaking news,” it plays to an emotional response, not a thoughtful, critical response. Even the writing in many newspaper articles takes on T.V. news’ inflammatory style, where you can practically hear the fire alarm or tornado siren wailing in the background. If all a news story is designed to do is tap into our reactive emotions, we can’t expect a healthy or productive public response. Whether or not we like it, bad news sells. And since that’s not likely to change, we have to decide not to buy into it.

    In our national and public sphere, the life we all share, it’s unfortunate that we can’t always choose the stories told about us. Oftentimes, I hear T.V. news anchors quoting nationwide polls as if a phone screen of 2500 Americans factually certifies that we are all worried about such-and-such. Sure, that information might sound interesting, but is it helpful? More than whether or not the media coverage is itself good or bad, or on one of many sides, we need to decide whether or not it’s helpful. More precisely, we need to decide how much coverage is helpful, if we truly want to mature and grow from yesterday’s stories into the untold stories of today. We can’t keep telling yesterday’s news if we truly want to move forward.

  • Carrie

    Everything is sensationalized. The highs get too high and the lows way too low. It’s nice to have access to 24/7 news but sometimes it gets to be a bit much.

    We must like it though, otherwise we wouldn’t keep watching and listening!!!

  • rose

    Yes.

    Remember that media people specialize in “media” and are not subject matter experts. They don’t know what questions to ask and they don’t know how to listen, interpret or react to the response given. They need to focus on their next question and keepint the show interesting and moving with lots of drama.

    I’d go so far as to say that even the “univeristy” or others whio the media are able to book as guests or sources, also have their own agenda (i.e., selling books, promoting the school) and they are also not subject matter experts.

    If the public only get their news or updates from media personnel (or on air personalities) they are not informed.

  • Neil C.

    The traditional media (even NPR/MPR) covers politics and the economy about the same way they cover sports. Lots of he said/she said. Lots of “score reporting.” Insufficient interpretation and analysis. That is apparently what people want (or what sells) so I don’t really expect it to change.

    Notwithstanding the fact that the “Fourth Estate” could be much more helpful, I don’t think it affects the economy much for several reasons.

    – most people aren’t watching, listening or reading

    – for those of us that are, our attention spans are short. The shocking headline of today is forgotten tomorrow.

    – the “scores” that the media reports on (jobs, stock market, economic growth) are just “scores.” The stock market indices in particular are just background noise. Down one day, Up the next. And 99% of us are either not involved at all or invested for the long term.

    – people’s spending and saving decisions are much more a reflection of their personal condition than their perception of the overall state of the economy.

  • P. Nielsen

    For sure. Most of the commercial/cable media is biased toward the right and wants to do everything it can to assist the republicans and right-wing to discredit anything the current administration tries to do to improve the economy. For that matter, the media is expert at reporting doom and gloom rather than report what good is happening most of the time. They may squeeze in a little human interest piece now and then but it’s too little, too late. I pretty much have stopped watching news programs on television, do not subscribe to cable other than the local broadcast channels. Funny isn’t it, that the airwaves are owned by the public, but are controlled by these crooks and charlatans. Evidently they can make more money for themselves by reporting bad news rather than anything positive.

  • GaryF

    “For sure. Most of the commercial/cable media is biased toward the right and wants to do everything it can to assist the republicans and right-wing to discredit anything the current administration tries to do to improve the economy.”

    Except for for Fox News, who else?

  • Steve the Cynic

    The excessive negativity is a mutual effort.

    1. The media gets more audience by sensationalizing the news.

    2. The current opposition party natters on about how bad things are in order to discredit incumbents.

    3. We, the people, are biased in our skepticism. We react with suspicion to good news and get worked up about the latest conspiracy theory, while treating yesterday’s conspiracy theory as established truth.

    Here’s the remedy: Instead of worrying about how “the Economy” is doing, ask yourself how you, and people you know are doing.

  • Ron

    Doubtful, because the major players in the economy don’t pay attention to “the media” when making decisions which drive the economy.

    But that in way excuses what “the media” produces today as “journalism” … lazy, gossip-centered, uninformed, ADD-paced, non-challenging, non-fact checked, corporate-driven drivel. And, yes, I believe NPR’s standards are well below what they ought to be in regard to journalism.

  • Kirk

    Perhaps the most intellectually responsible reply would be: “WELL, DUH!”

  • david

    The media’s role is only as large as the sheeple’s inability to think critically about what they see, hear, or read.

    Since most people (and that includes many of you on this forum) only follow the news sources that have the biggest tendency to confirm your own views the question is rather invalid.

    Add in the subterfuge spewed forth but many of our elected official and their corporate overlords, the truth is rarely told, intentionally or not.

  • Sharon

    Yes- the media should be objectively reporting the news and examining and analyzing the “spin”. Rather, the constant drumbeat and minute to minute reporting of the markets yesterday were not helpful- even MPR and NPR had nonstop reporting of the falls in the market beginning at 9am. We need some balanced reporting !!

  • Mark

    No , I don’t think so. At the end of the day most folks base their economic decisions on their own personal finances not what the media states.

  • Mike

    The Fourth Estate has done a terrible job covering the economic catastrophe and congress’s dealings with the issue. Maybe it is too complicated for lazy reporters to understand or for lazy consumers with short attention spans to understand.

    At any rate, follow the money–for-profit media and their corporate owners are more likely to make a profit if people are kept in the dark with 24-hour coverage of celebrity weddings and stories about moms killing their kids.

  • Tom

    The media only makes things worse for themselves as they slip further and further into irrelevance and obscurity. Anyone who understands economics and the basic principles of liberty and individual freedom understands…

  • Bear

    The media’s current reporting tactics makes “any situation worse”. Look no further than Newsweek’s cover this week. There is no better example of media’s use of sensational headlines and unflattering pictures in an attempt to bias reader opinion. How can anyone, regardless of how you feel about Representative Bachman, consider this magazine as a reliable news source? Oh yea, Tina Brown has done this before, Princess Diana vs. Kate Middleton.

  • david

    bear dude,

    That pic is right on! The photographer should get Pulitzer for capturing bachmann’s creepy, evil true self. You can actually smell sulfur and brimstone when you look at it.

  • Jim G

    The media will exaggerant the negative aspect of every story on the economy. We’re supposed to be afraid. It makes us easier to control. Fear stops critical thinking and throws us into a primal flight or fight response. So the media sells more negative stories, and we are easier to mold into a herd mentality.

  • Bear

    @David … the photo has been photoshopped so not a great capture by the photographer … I am not a Bachman fan but the “HEADLINE” is inflammatory and has no place in responsible news journalism. This practice exacerbates the political polarization. We need fair and balanced reporting that helps bridge the chasm not pushes us further apart. The cover actually has resulted unintended consequences opposite the intent of Tina Brown’s editorializing.

  • david

    @bear.

    Well I just actually READ the article, and it seems pretty accurate to me.

    How do you KNOW the photo was Photoshopped? Are you an expert? She posed for that picture, that stupid look on her face is all her own. No amount of Photoshopping could do that.

    And please don’t through faux news’s slogan around, it makes you lose all credibility too.

  • greg

    Nope – that would be like blaming rain fall for crops. “We” the consumers of media have to learn to distinguish between the layers of reports (1) real data (2) reasoned and limited analysis of real data and (3) the statistically unlikely and randomly assembled utterings of gasbags.

  • Greg

    #Bachmann.

    Given the her legendary and continuing mis-quotes, mis-statements, mala-props and utter disdain for clear logic that she has foisted on the American public through media over the last decade – this is just simple serendipitous statistical chance taking place. Frankly I hope there is more. We need more “buffooning” of those who would be kings!

  • Joel Tweeten

    Maybe inflammatory. The reactionary (person or group) is rarely well informed. But it is yet to be judged whether the conduct of a given media outlet is to inform or incite. In the free society one can only judge for oneself. But one can say so.

  • Craig

    No. Most news outlets have a target audience, and design their coverage to serve its demands. Many of these target audiences demand news that agrees with a position they already hold. Their economic behavior is determined long before selecting their news source.

    The only target audience likely to change behavior based on reporting is one that has real money at risk. These people demand accuracy in the interest of not losing money, regardless of their personal political outlook. They make decisions based on information from a proven source, and if that source fails them, they abandon it; hence the source must be accurate or lose its market.

    So, no, the media do not make the economy worse, since the only news sources within the media that shape capital allocation have a survival motive to be accurate. The rest speak to people who weild little capital and have already made up their minds.

  • Steve the Cynic

    If people were as skeptical about conspiracy theories as they are of government, corporations, and the news media, these discussions would be a lot more enlightening. It never ceases to amaze me, the kinds of bullshit people will believe!

  • Roul

    I trust MPR to air all the NPR stories for their honest accounts of nothing more than, who said what..all second hand commentary without much facts noted. They do this for the economy for the past three years and the public was largely unaware of the serious debt we are all in. heck_ they discuss the recall vote in WI yet fail to even cover the story of racial mob violence at their State Fair of black youth mugging whites…. That story should have been aired and should have led to the question for discussion as, ” Has Obama’s constant rhetoric about blaming the rich whites for all the economic problems leading to even more racial unrest in the USA?

    America has not seen such anti-white atmosphere being encouraged excepting Iran’s President as the lead gun there. Media influences more by what they refuse to air.

  • Steve the Cynic

    … and just 17 minutes later, a case in point. Raoul, what “constant rhetoric” are you talking about? Obama’s been more than careful not to make a big deal about race, despite some in his party wanting to accuse the opposition of racism, and despite some of the opposition actually using racially loaded terms in reference to him, and despite whiny rich folks who happen to be white complaining that they’re being oppressed.

  • Roul

    Steve the Cynic, judging by his time of posts, lives in his bathrobe and bloggs to counter anything anti-Obama..great work if you can get Steve 🙂

    In Obama’s own words in his book, “My grandmother was a TYPICAL WHITE PERSON.” Obama stated to the press during a June or May staffing that he thinks some_ of the opposition to his policies from Congress is because race plays a part.”

    And Obama is oddly quiet about the recent black young adults attacking whites on the street for fun..Hmmm……because who is it now that feels entitled to act without repercussions?

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Steve the Cynic, judging by his time of posts, lives in his bathrobe …”

    … which only goes to prove conclusively that Raoul is not psychic. And, btw, I don’t oppose anything anti-Obama, just ridiculous things like you’ve been posting, Raoul. I happen to agree with folks who think he’s been too wimpy in negotiating with the take-no-prisoners mad hatters.

  • Patrick

    The media has sometimes referred to itself as “the fourth wing of government” with hopes of convincing the public of its positive “watchdog” attributes. As it obsessively patrols the henhouse the financial foxes are devouring its owner, the public. But then who owns the tired eyed well fed watchdog? The Fox.