Networks That Ignored Bad GDP News, Eagerly Cover ‘Good News’

ABC, NBC skipped first quarter drop and downward revisions, but happy to report growth.

All three broadcast network evening shows reported the higher than expected 4 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate for the second quarter on July 30. However, ABC and NBC evening shows previously skipped the three prior GDP announcements that showed the economy shrinking in the first quarter.

ABC and NBC evening news programs ignored the Commerce Department’s announcement of negative 0.1 percent GDP growth on April 30 and the revision to negative 1.0 percent growth on May 29. Again, on June 25 when the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) said the economy actually shrank by 2.9 percent in Q1, both “World News” and “Nightly News” remained silent. 

Only CBS “Evening News” reported all three of those GDP announcements the day they were released.

But the cat didn’t have ABC and NBC’s tongues on July 30. All three evening news programs reported the first estimate of 4 percent GDP growth in the second quarter of 2014.

ABC “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer called it a “sign of life from the fragile U.S. economy” and attributed the “rebound” to consumer spending. NBC “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams called it “good news” saying, “GDP grew at a healthy 4 full percent rate in the spring, surpassing expectations, while bouncing back from a tough winter during which economic activity dropped.”

But given both network shows’ refusal to cover those earlier announcement of a shrinking economy, Sawyer and Williams would have to trust that their viewers had heard of it elsewhere.

Williams didn’t mention that the final figure for the first quarter was -2.1 percent, according to the July 30 release from the BEA. ABC and CBS both showed the first and second quarter growth rates onscreen.

— Julia A. Seymour is Assistant Managing Editor for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Julia A. Seymour on Twitter.