The art of political spin demands that one apply enough to make the point, but not so much as to make it obvious. CNN needs to do a little better than their effort today at the Political Ticker. In reporting data that showed January joblessness increasing in 30 states, CNN put this headline on the article:
The previous month, joblessness had increased in 43 states. This, according to CNN, is good news, because … well … 30 isn’t as bad as 43. That’s certainly true, but when 60% of the states have unemployment increasing, that’s hardly a bright outlook. It might be slightly less bleak, but that’s not at all the same thing.
Unemployment rose in most states in January—even breaking records in several states, according to government data released Wednesday.
Joblessness in five states—California (12.5 percent), South Carolina (12.6 percent) , Florida (11.9 percent), Georgia (10.4 percent) and North Carolina (11.1 percent)—hit a record high. The District of Columbia, at 12.0 percent, also reached a record high.
In all, 30 states and the District of Columbia saw their rates increase in January over the previous month. Nine states reported a decrease and 11 states had no change in their unemployment, according to the Labor Department.
Fewer states showed an increase in their unemployment rate in January compared to December, when 43 states showed an increase in jobless rates.
Maybe CNN feels that record-breaking unemployment brightens their day, but I doubt most Americans would agree. And let’s not forget that unemployment is cumulative. Having fewer states losing jobs is not an improvement, but a slowdown of the rate of decline. That’s not good news, but just news that is less bad.
If the Bush White House attempted the kind of spin applied by CNN, responsible journalists would have blasted them for it. These days, the Obama administration doesn’t have to bother applying that spin as long as journalists do it for them.