When it comes to covering the economy under President Obama, the broadcast networks have a habit of covering good economic news, but glossing over or ignoring bad economic news.
It turns out coverage of income and poverty data from the Census got the same treatment with all three networks covering “great news” on Sept. 13, 2016. However, a year earlier only CBS Evening News covered the data showing stagnant income and poverty rates. Even that show waited days to report the news.
Liberals and media outlets heralded the Sept. 13, Census report which showed that median incomes rose 5.2 percent and the poverty rate dropped significantly between 2014 and 2015. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman tweeted, “Thanks Obama.” Former Obama economic advisor Betsey Stevenson also credited the president.
But what made that news so good was the fact that stagnant wages and high poverty rates marred nearly the entirety of Obama’s recovery. Just a year before the Sept. 13, 2016, data was released the Census reported income and poverty stagnation. Back then Nightly News and World News ignored it, continuing the network trend of ignoring economic data which showed weakness in Obama’s economy.
Nightly News and World News ignored the 2015 report for at least a month after its release, but gave the “positive economic news” a combined 52 seconds on Sept. 13, 2016. As in the past, World News Tonight devoted the least amount of time to major economic news, giving the rising income data along with a stock market update just 18 seconds on Sept. 13.
Nightly News reported on Sept. 13, the drop in the poverty rate was the “sharpest decline since 1968.” The poverty rate dropped to 13.5 percent in 2015, from poverty which was at “historic highs” in 2014 at 14.7 percent.
But as Time editor-at-large Belinda Luscombe reported on Sept. 13, a staggering number of Americans are still poor and in terrible condition.
“In 2015, more than 43 million Americans, or the equivalent of the population of Argentina, did not have what they needed to get by,” Luscombe wrote.
In contrast to the largely positive reporting from the networks, Time provided more context saying, “The improving economy simply isn’t reaching far enough.”
CBS Evening News did report the disappointing Census data released in 2015, but waited four days after it was released to cover it. In that Sept. 20, 2015, report, CBS correspondent Jeff Glor asked, “Why have wages been stagnant for so long?”
The Census Bureau found that in 2015, household median income rose 5.2 percent from $53,718 to $56,516. Despite that improvement, median income remained short of its pre-recession level of $57,423 in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
For nearly 18 months before the 2016 Democratic National Convention, the network evening shows helped shield Obama and liberals from ongoing economic weakness by barely reporting on stagnant wages, historically high poverty, disappointing economic growth and three other key economic indicators showing weakness.