Media Ignoring Unemployment

Jamison Foser at Media Matters:

Here’s an indication of the news media’s failure to treat the nation’s persistent high unemployment rate as the crisis that it is: Even when the economy is the leading topic of media coverage, those news reports haven’t focused on the lack of jobs.

The Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism produces a weekly “News Coverage Index” that tracks the leading news stories in 52 different television, radio, print, and web outlets. Since the beginning of November, “the economy” has been the leading topic of coverage five times. That may sound like the media is focusing like a laser on America’s struggling economy, but that coverage has focused on things like the deficit and tax cuts, not on the jobs situation.

Things like this make it very hard for there to be an adequate feedback loop between policy makers and the public. Skewed media coverage fails to represent the actual problems at hand and in turn has the potential to shift public sentiment on economic problems. It’s not shocking that members of Congress and officials in the administration are focusing on the deficit and tax cuts when it’s all the media talks about. Of course, this isn’t happening in isolation. It’s also happening because many people in DC believe that the only way to solve our economic problems are by cutting government spending and forcing austerity measures on working people who have been most hurt by the economic collapse which was, incidentally, caused by Wall Street.

One of the things that made Bernie Sanders’ day-long Senate speech so inspiring was that he was talking about the economy and the path to recovery in a way that was not circumscribed by austerity hawks and Wall Street sycophants. He talked about the real impact of our high unemployment and the reasons our economy is stuck in low gear, citing unemployment 15 times, banks 35 times and Wall Street 19 times. This is how the press should be talking about our economy, but they’re not. Were there to be more politicians in Washington who had the courage to try to challenge this media dynamic as Senator Sanders did, the press would be forced to pay attention and actually report on the real problems in our economy, not the class warfare solutions pushed by conservatives.

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