Since the campaign trail, President Donald Trump has made an economic turnaround and prosperity a top priority. But the network news media have not made covering economic news one of theirs.
Too often the networks focused on less important stories, such as Amazon’s unique “reinvented” office space called “The Spheres,” and skipped key economic news.
On Jan. 26, the government announced the latest figures for U.S. economic growth (GDP). CBS Evening News failed to report the 2.6 fourth-quarter rate of growth — but spent 1 minute 52 seconds gawking at the “Spheres” offices in downtown Seattle and interviewing its designer. The giant spheres amount to indoor rainforests for relaxation and work space. Those offices have a capacity of about 1,000 people. Slightly fewer than the 327 million people directly impacted by the U.S. economy.
Fourth quarter growth of 2.6 percent was “good” news, even though it was below expectations. In the same announcement, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said the annual rate of growth for 2017 was 2.3 percent. The next two BEA announcements may include revisions to those growth rates.
Evening News rivals, ABC World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News found just 30 seconds combined to spend on the economic announcement on Jan. 26. The announcements for 2017 GDP rate were once a month, beginning April 28, 2017.
That single Evening News story about “The Spheres” eclipsed the total time those three news programs spent on 2017 GDP rate announcements (on release dates).
Total combined coverage of GDP on announcement days was 91 seconds or 1 minute 31 seconds (World News Tonight: 26 seconds, Nightly News: 22 seconds, Evening News: 43 seconds).
On Dec. 21, Evening News covered the third quarter GDP data positively — but spent more time on Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle’s engagement photos. ABC and NBC both covered the royal photos, but ignored economic growth that night.
BEA announcements of economic growth were frequently ignored by all three broadcasts. There was zero time spent on growth estimates on May 26, June 29, Aug. 30, Sept. 28, Oct. 27 and Nov. 29, 2017 — and some of those were upward revisions to previously reported figures.
For example, Evening News covered the 2.6 percent initial estimate of Q2 growth on July 28. But did not cover the revisions in August or September, even though the final reading in September was 3.1 percent.
The networks have ignored many good economic stories and downplayed others since Donald Trump became president. In addition to GDP reports, many stock market record highs went unreported. Company decisions to raise wages and hand out bonuses because of the tax cuts recently passed and signed into law by the GOP majority were also minimized by ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows.