First 2018 GDP Ignored by Networks, Spun By Bloomberg, NPR

April 30th, 2018 5:15 PM

Superheroes, the naming of a new royal and an adorable child umpire were all more important to ABC, CBS and NBC news than the latest U.S. economic data.

The Commerce Department announced a better-than-expected estimate of GDP — 2.3 percent — for the first quarter of 2018. In recent years, first quarters have been beset with weakness and economists expected the number to be 2 percent or a little less.

CNBC on-air editor Rick Santelli reacted to the 2.3 percent estimate with “Holy cow! Better than expected ...” His colleague, senior economics reporter Steve Liesman also called it a “win” and said he thought it “keeps us on track” for 3 percent annual GDP. “US GDP blows past estimates despite slowdown in consumer spending,” Business Insider declared.

But World News Tonight with David Muir, Nightly News and Evening News all omitted the news from their broadcasts, just as they often did with 2017 GDP announcements. After providing fairly similar coverage of Korea, the Russia investigation, allegations against Tom Brokaw, Bill Cosby and criminal stories, the broadcasts diverged.

World News chose to sit down with several cast members of the soon-to-be record breaking Avengers: Infinity War. Nightly News spent one minute and 21 seconds cooing over the naming of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s third child. Evening News included a cute “On the Road” segment about a child who is so obsessed with baseball umpiring he’s practically part of the team.

MRC Latino found that the national evening newscasts on Spanish-language counterparts Univision and Telemundo also neglected to report on the latest GDP numbers on April 27. Instead, Telemundo spent over four minutes between covering the Billboard Music Awards show and a fluff piece on Mexican cuisine. Univision, meanwhile, chose to spend a minute covering the mix-up of bodies at a funeral home viewing.


Unlike those broadcast programs, print and online media reported the latest GDP estimate with some spinning the news pessimistically, while others acknowledged it was above estimates.

Headlines from MarketWatch, Associated Press, NPR and Bloomberg and a Trump-bashing Los Angeles Times columnist all went negative on April 27.

MarketWatch complained that “Stingy consumer spending in GDP report grabs the attention of economists.” NPR, Bloomberg and AP all emphasized that first quarter growth was lower than the fourth quarter, even though that has been a trend for several years.

“US Growth Cools to 2.3% While Compensation Costs Accelerate,” Bloomberg’s headline declared as NPR focused just on GDP: “US Economic Growth Slowed to 2.3 percent.”

LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik who often attacks Republicans and President Donald Trump, made sure to invoke the president in his column about the latest GDP report.

“Trump’s dream of better than 3% economic growth recedes again,” Hiltzik wrote on April 27. In the column he wrote, “The growth of 2.3% over the same period a year ago may not have been grim, but certainly was dismal. More to the point in political terms, it underscored just how hard it will be to reach President Trump’s promise of annual growth better than 3% — much less the prediction of his Treasury secretary, Steven. T. Mnuchin, of 4% or better.”