NBC Drives Recession Fears with R.V. Story

     Tailgating The New York Times, “NBC Nightly News” worried on December 3 that America is traveling down the road to recession, because R.V. sales are projected to decline by about 5 percent in 2008.

     Tailgating The New York Times, “NBC Nightly News” worried on December 3 that America is traveling down the road to recession, because R.V. sales are projected to decline by about 5 percent in 2008.


     “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams sounded the alarm: “when R.V. sales go down, the U.S. economy often follows.”


     Correspondent Lee Cowan explained “that Wall Street has been tailgating [the R.V. industry] for signs of a possible recession.”


     Cowan profiled the Newtons, who were hoping to upgrade their R.V. but were turned off by “oil flirting with 100 bucks a barrel.” While oil did flirt with $100-a-barrel, Cowan didn’t say that on that very day, oil was trading $12 lower – under $88 a barrel – and the retail price of gasoline was little more than $3 a gallon.


     Despite NBC’s claim that R.V. sales are slipping “driven by rising fuel prices,” gasoline prices have dropped six cents since November 15.


     The thrust of Cowan’s report was that recession is coming. The NBC correspondent said that over the last 30 years, every time there has been a decline in R.V. sales it’s been followed by a decline in the U.S. economy, before citing forecasts that R.V. sales will drop 10% this year and 5% next year.


     But that would mean that the decline in sales will be smaller in 2008, although Cowan didn’t say that.


     Cowan also left out some good news The New York Times mentioned on December 2: “[T]here is still some joy in the [R.V.] market. It may seem counterintuitive, but the biggest, baddest – and, of course, the most expensive – R.V.’s are doing well.”


     This was not the first time “Nightly News” warned that R.V. sales will spell “recession” for the U.S.


     “Another sign of the economic times today – Bloomberg reports that Winnebago expects to show its first drop in orders in six years. Here's why that matters,” Williams said on the “Nightly News” November 27. “Over the last three decades of U.S. history, every time orders for mobile homes have dropped, the economy has suffered a downturn soon after.”


     The media have turned to other “economic indicators” recently to predict a recession—something reporters have been claiming was just around the corner since August 2003. In addition to R.V. sales, Starbucks coffee and sweaters were also being monitored with concern.


     “Starbucks is also an economic indicator, and the news on that front isn’t all good,” anchor Brian Williams said on the November 16 “Nightly News.”


     ABC’s Biana Golodryga offered a recession forecast on October 18 on “Good Morning America” saying, “When sweater sales go up, watch out.”


     Many others in the media have used the terms “consumer recession” or “housing recession” to make the case that the U.S. is in some type of recession, because the overall economy is not in an actual recession.


     As the Business and Media Institute pointed out on November 28 that when recession is whatever you feel, it can happen any time. Network broadcasts harped on recession from the end of October to the end of November, mentioning it in 29 stories – almost once per day.


     The morning of November 27, CBS’s “Early Show” featured a graphic onscreen blaring “Recession Fears,” and CNN’s “American Morning” team asked viewers, “Will we be in a recession sometime next year?” Unsurprisingly, 85 percent of respondents said yes.


     CNN’s senior business correspondent Ali Velshi repeated a sentiment that day he had voiced before: recession may not depend on economic fact.

     “A recession really is a downturn in economic growth. It doesn’t mean things are tight, doesn’t mean things are tough. It actually means economic growth is going the wrong direction,” Velshi explained. “We haven’t seen that yet, but the other people say a recession is when you feel like there’s a recession and you stop spending and then you cause a recession. So I’d be very interested in seeing what folks say about that.”