In his weekly address today (video only at link; transcript was not present when this post was prepared), President Obama opened with these three sentences:
It was a little more than one year ago that our country faced a potentially devastating crisis in our auto industry.
Over the course of 2008, the industry shed 400,000 jobs. In the midst of a financial crisis and deep recession, both General Motors and Chrysler, two companies that for generations were a symbol of America's manufacturing might, were on the brink of collapse.
Look at what Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville did to those first three sentences in the third paragraph of her report on Obama's presentation:
The only possible interpretation of what Superville wrote is that she believes, or simply mis-wrote, that Government/General Motors and Chrysler alone -- the only two "bailed-out auto makers" -- shed 400,000 jobs in 2008.
For the record, total U.S. employment at General Motors at the end of 2007 was about 110,000, according to this early February 2008 item. This November 2007 link indicates that Chrysler at that point had 71,000 employees worldwide (59,000 expected to remain plus 12,000 jobs expected to be eliminated). The two entities combined obviously did not have 400,000 U.S. jobs to shed at the beginning of 2008. Whether they are even legitimately "rebounding" is also more than a little questionable, but will be left alone for now.
Superville's stunner makes it clear that, in journalism and so many other endeavors, the problem isn't only that basic math skills have fallen so steeply (which they have). It's that people who one would expect to be able to detect self-evidently out of line or misplaced numbers like the one above, i.e., journalists like the AP's Superville reviewing her own work, as well as the layers of alleged editors at the self-described "Essential Global News Network," clearly can't or won't do it.
At the risk of sounding like a nagging father, I would humbly suggest that Ms. Superville spend a little less time on Facebook, expend just a bit less energy on the National Association of Black Journalists (or find better mentors there, or elsewhere), and instead devote a bit more time to her craft. From here, ma'am, your evaluation is clearly a "needs improvement."
The President's claim that the auto industry as a whole shed 400,000 jobs "over the course of 2008" does stand up. The tables at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for "The Automotive Industry" for that period show the following changes from December 2007 through December 2008 (SA - Seasonally Adjusted; NSA - Not Seasonally Adjusted):
- Manufacturing -- SA, -175,800; NSA, -174,400
- Retail -- SA, -189,900; NSA, -190,700
- Wholesale -- SA, not available; NSA, -24,100
- Other Services -- SA, not available; NSA, -55,600
Assuming that the unavailable SA numbers were the same as the NSAs, total industry job losses were over 440,000 on both measurements.
What the president didn't tell his audience is that well over 75% of those job losses occurred during the final six months of 2008, after the prospect of his election, full Democratic control of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, and promised tax hikes, energy starvation, and statist heath care became all too real.
As to the last excerpted paragraph from Superville, see previous posts (here and here at NewsBusters; here, here, and here at BizzyBlog) about the press's failure to cover, or perhaps even to understand, the deceptive nature of GM's claim to have repaid its bailout loans. For the purposes of this post, I'll just note that the assertion at the president's weekly address web page that "the government’s emergency interventions (in Chrysler and GM) are now winding down" is patently false, and will remain patently false until the government unloads its $40 billion-plus stock investment in GM and its smaller investment in Chrysler.
Good luck getting Darlene Superville or anyone else at the Associated Press to report that.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.