10.05.2009 Policy Points

Reporting (Or Not) the Economy

According to a new study sponsored by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, media coverage of the ongoing recession has paid scant attention to the economic issues of greatest day-to day concern to average Americans: issues like unemployment, housing and foreclosures, state and local spending on public services, and family economic hardships.

Instead, the Pew study found that media coverage of economic issues has been dominated by three topics: efforts to aid large banks, the passage of the economic recovery act, and assistance to the auto industry. Most of the coverage of these topics originated in actions taken by governmental and business leaders. The majority of stories originated from New York City and Washington, D.C., and most focused on the perspectives of government officials, business leaders, and academic experts.

Alarmingly, the new research found that coverage  of economic issues has dropped sharply since the end of March, which is when the stock market began to recover. In fact, coverage of economic issues has moved in an inverse relationship to the direction of the stock market. When the market began to rally in late March, the idea that the economy was improving took firm hold in media accounts and has shaped much subsequent coverage, even though recent data do not necessarily support that view.

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