Another Example of the AP's 'Good News Promoted, Bad News Buried' Economy Coverage

May 17th, 2016 1:50 PM

In mid-April, as I noted in a NewsBusters post, the Associated Press, apparently desperate to find any kind of good economic news that might offset the impact of an awful national industrial production report from the Federal Reserve, cited a positive manufacturing survey from just one state to claim that "goods production in the U.S. could be stabilizing."

Lo and behold, yesterday that same one-state survey, the Empire State Manufacturing Index, showed that manufacturing in New York went into the tank in May, dropping into serious contraction after just two months of expansion. The wire service produced a terse four-paragraph report on the news, and appears to taken measures keep the bad news away from much of the nation.

The AP's April effort at damage control cited the positive Empire State report twice. The first was an early morning report by Christopher Rugaber which claimed that its second visit into expansion since July of 2015 was "a sign U.S. manufacturing may be picking up."

In the second, Rugaber, who had clearly expected a better national manufacturing result instead of the 0.3 percent decline the Fed reported, curbed his enthusiasm. He modified his "picking up" claim to the "could be stabilizing" noted earlier.

May's Empire State report was horrible. Its 18.58-point drop from +9.56 to -9.02 was the worst single-month decline since late 2014, and the fifth-worst since the recession officially ended in mid-2009.

The key elements of the narrative produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York summarized the gory details:

  • "Business Conditions Worsen"
  • "Employment Levels Hold Steady, While the Workweek Declines"
  • "Capital Spending Index Falls Sharply"

New orders, shipments and unfilled orders all went into or remained in contraction.

Surprise, surprise — The AP's Monday morning report on the Empire State Index's May result appeared at CNBC and relatively few other places:

Normally, if it's prepared, a report such as this on an economic index followed by investors and economists would be published at the AP's national sites. But for some reason, searches at the wire service's main national site and at its "Big Story" site indicate that the above item, also written up by Rugaber (as seen here), is not present at either place — likely ensuring that many subscribing outlets didn't get wind of it, and that device users getting AP's national feeds wouldn't see it at all. (Note at the "Big Story" link that both April stories "somehow" got the "Big Story" treatment when the Empire Index was positive.)

Why did the AP keep May's Empire State Index out of its national sites? The default assumption has to be that good news gets promoted, while bad news gets buried as much as possible.

Cross-posted at