Need more evidence of bias in the media, let me introduce you to:
Daniel Gross is a business reporter superstar. He’s worked at several mainstream media outlets and several new media ventures as well. Here’s an excerpt from his bio at the Daily Beast:
“Daniel Gross is one of the most widely read financial and economic writers working today. A former editor at Newsweek, he wrote the "Contrary Indicator" column, which he now writes for Yahoo! Finance.
Before joining Newsweek in the spring of 2007, Mr. Gross wrote the "Economic View" column in the New York Times, was a contributing writer to New York, and contributed regularly to magazines such as Fortune and Wired.”
As Crazy Uncle Joe would say; he’s a BFD. Gross also wrote a column at Slate.com. In his farewell article, Gross said this:
“This is my last Moneybox column for Slate. After eight years and three months of crafting thrice-weekly, 800-word gems filled with wit, prose that approaches poetry, and deep insight into global business and economic issues, I'm moving to a new job as a columnist for Yahoo Finance.”
It’s fairly safe to say, Mr. Gross is not a modest man. As a respected and esteemed member of the business news press, Gross can be considered an exemplar of the mainstream media. While he may be widely published online, his Daily Beast bio also boasts he is, “A regular guest on CNBC, MSNBC, and National Public Radio, he has also appeared on CNN, Fox News Channel, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Bloomberg Television, C-SPAN, BBC, and Reuters TV, and on more than 50 radio programs and talk shows.”
Let’s see if this dynamo of journalistic excellence has anything to teach us about the state of media today. I’ve taken two of Gross’ articles about the unemployment rate and compared them. Both articles are from the same point in a president’s term. Both articles address the unemployment rate as representative of that president’s policy achievements.
From January of President George W. Bush first term in 2004:
“In December 2003, the adjusted unemployment rate was 9.9 percent, compared with 5.7 percent for the unemployment rate. In other words, on top of the 5.7 percent of the labor force who said they didn't have a job, a low figure by recent historical standards, 4.2 percent of the labor force was either marginally attached or wanted to work full-time but couldn't. That's a high figure by recent historical standards” http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2004/01/odd_jobs.html
Gross compares the difference between the U-3 and the U-6 measures of unemployment. While an unemployment rate of 5.7% wasn’t too bad, boy that U-6 unemployed and underemployed number sure is bad. Almost ten percent of the workforce is only part time or had fallen off the unemployment figures which Gross characterizes as high compared to recent data.
Now let’s look at his treatment of President Obama’s unemployment figures at the same point in his presidency.
“Well, this month, the household survey produced some optimistic data. The unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent. The size of the labor force grew, but so did the number of people who said they were working.”
This 8.3% rate is fantastic. Look at how great Obama’s policies are working. The trend is your friend. Of course, Gross completely ignores the U-6 number in this report. In January 2012, it was over 15%. So, why would Gross, esteemed member of the Fourth Estate, point out the U-6 number during Bush’s first term but neglect to mention it at all during Obama’s? Hmm.
Let’s compare the titles of the two stories. In 2004, Gross named his story, ‘Odd Jobs, Why the unemployment rate is really higher than it looks.’ In 2012, his story is titled, ‘January Jobs Report: Solid Growth, but It Needs to Continue.’ Even though the 2004 numbers were significantly better than the 2012 numbers, He flips the script. According to Gross, under Bush the numbers were terrible, but actually lower. With Obama, everything’s coming up roses, even though his job numbers are abysmal.
Finally, let’s compare the verbiage in the two stories. Reading the story about unemployment in 2004 is a bummer. Gross uses statements like this:
“For several months now, economists of all stripes have been forecasting that payroll jobs—a notorious lagging indicator—would begin to rise smartly. But with the economy having turned in what appears to be a disappointing fourth quarter, we may have to wait a while longer.” This is at a time when the unemployment rate had dropped from 5.7% to 5.5% and the U-6 was 9.9% in January 2004. But, this past January when Obama’s economic numbers were released, Gross reported it this way:
“For the first time in several years, we have an unambiguously positive employment report. The U.S. economy added 243,000 payroll jobs in January 2012 and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent. One month does not a trend make, but the past several months of data show a labor market that is recovering, and an economy that has been accelerating even as fears of a double-dip recession rose.” You can practically hear the tune, ‘Happy Days are Here Again” playing in the background. He uses celebratory language when the unemployment rate drops from 8.5 to 8.3% and the U-6 was still above 15% in 2012. Yet, when it dropped .2% under Bush, he was singing a dirge.
We cannot conclude that Gross is biased against Republicans based solely on two stories eight years apart. However, we can see a discrete difference in how the numbers are handled while a Republican is in the White House and when a Democrat occupies the presidency. Bush’s recovery was significantly farther along and would eventually have numbers as low as before the dot.com bubble. Obama’s numbers aren’t nearly as good and the internals are terrible. We see the worker participation rate drop, the number of jobs fall, and the overall economy stagnate. Yet, we don’t get a close analysis on these numbers. We get a happy go-lucky celebration of a couple of data points.
But, I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it. After all, he is a journalist.
Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics from the following: