ABC, NBC Ignore GDP Plummet, Again

CBS the only network to report dismal GDP announcements from April and May.

Two out of three networks spurned the downgrade of GDP into negative territory on May 29 and 30.

Of the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows, only CBS “Evening News” mentioned that the already weak first-quarter GDP number was revised down to negative 1 percent growth.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced the economic contraction on May 29.  The previous BEA announcement on April 30 showed first-quarter US growth slowed to just 0.1 percent, a huge slowdown. GDP dropped from 2.6 percent fourth-quarter growth to 0.1 percent.

The BEA blamed the “collapse in growth” on a drop in exports and domestic investment, according to the International Business Times’ Finbarr Bermingham, who called it a “dramatic slowdown.” Despite the significance, the broadcast networks almost completely ignored the story at the time and continued to ignore the revision.

ABC and NBC morning and evening news shows hadn’t mentioned GDP at all since April 30. Both CBS news programs briefly covered the April 30 announcement. CBS reported the revised number on “Evening News” May 29.

This downward revision underscored the need for the networks to report on the initial GDP data, rather than ignore bad economic news. Private forecasts had already predicted negative growth.

The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Leubsdorf cited very troubling data that foreshadowed economic contraction. According to Leubsdorf, J.P. Morgan Chase found a contraction of 0.8 percent, while Macroeconomic Advisers calculated a decline of 0.6 percent.  

On April 30, CBS “Evening News” covered the story but tried to downplay the economic weakness. Anchor Scott Pelley blamed the “harsh weather this past winter” as onscreen text declared “economic growth,” Pelley also assured viewers that “the slowdown didn’t worry Wall Street” and emphasized rising stock prices.

Similarly, CBS “This Morning” co-anchor Norah O’Donnell praised the Dow’s “record high” the next day. In that stock market story, O’Donnell spared only 8 seconds to mention GDP. Not much, but more than other network morning shows.

Neither ABC nor NBC mentioned the drastic slowdown in growth. None of the three networks brought it up between GDP announcements either.

While the networks refused to cover bad GDP news, they appeared more than happy to cover the good news. On May 2, just a few days after the GDP announcement, ABC, CBS and NBC hyped the positive job growth, while still ignoring GDP.

— Sean Long is Staff Writer at the Media Research Center. Follow Sean Long on Twitter.