Is the New York Times cheerleading for a bad economy?
posted at 12:53 pm on March 11, 2012 by Karl
Of course not. However, given the NYT’s reputation, it is worth noting they had some of the most balanced coverage of Friday’s seemingly good unemployment report.
Quite a bit of the establishment media was unabashedly political in its coverage of the report, often right in the headlines. For the Washington Post, “Obama’s re-election case gets a boost from jobs report.” At AFP, an almost identical take: “Jobs data boosts Obama’s reelection argument.” For BusinessWeek, “Obama’s Re-Election Case Bolstered by February Employment Report.” The verdict at the Wall Street Journal? “Jobs Report: Better News for Obama.” And so on.
To be sure, the NYT editorial on the jobs report was overtly political, tossing in a “do-nothing Congress” meme as a chaser. But the regular news coverage of the report did not get into the politics until paragraph 5, with a cautious tone:
Such improvement, if it continues, will most likely be a boost for President Obama as he makes a case to voters that his economic policies have been working. Republicans quickly criticized it as too little, too late. Still, the report coincided with other signs of strength, like a surge in consumer confidence and growing strength in manufacturing.
“There is no real cloud in the silver lining of this morning’s jobs report,” wrote Steven Blitz, chief economist of ITG Investment Research.
The big question was whether such improvement could be sustained, or even accelerate, as is necessary to significantly drive down the unemployment rate. Most projections call for slower economic growth in the first quarter of this year than the last quarter of 2011, and a second report on Friday further reduced expectations. The report, showing a higher-than-expected trade deficit, prompted firms like JPMorgan Chase and Macroeconomic Advisers to lower their growth forecasts for this quarter.
The focus, though, remained on more encouraging signs…
The NYT’s business reportage was even more subdued. David Leonhardt wrote about “Why Job Growth Is Likely to Slow,” with the answer being that overall economic growth is expected to slow:
Why do economists expect growth to slow? The warm winter has probably pulled some spending forward into the last few months and will reduce spending in coming months, says Joshua Shapiro, an economist at MFR Inc. in New York. Rising oil prices also play a role. So does the continuing debt overhang, which makes a sustained recovery difficult.
Leonhardt linked to other similar pieces at the NYT, including a detailed piece by Binyamin Appelbaum which ran last December.
Why does any of this matter, aside from the novelty of the NYT providing balanced coverage? It matters because if this widely expected slowdown occurs, the right will almost surely be accused of cheerleading for a bad economy for talking about it. Conversely, even amid the good news, business outlets like CNBC and political outlets like National Journal will drop in complaints from the Economic Policy Institute, a blatantly left-wing, Big Labor think tank. It is totally acceptable to badmouth the economy — as long as you are cheerleading for bigger government. Take the NYT’s current coverage to your memory bank; you may want to cash it in later this year.
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