USA Today, Washington Post Repeat Inflation Concerns

     USA Today and The Washington Post hyped inflation fears today rather than focus on optimistic outlooks from economists or a Federal Reserve report showing strong economic growth in the weeks closing 2005.

     USA Today editors placed Barbara Hagenbaughs article, 3.4% inflation is worst in 5 years, below the fold on the front page of the Jan. 19 paper, while Nell Hendersons Inflation Hit Five-Year High of 3.4% Last Year commanded the front page of the Washington Posts Jan. 19 Business section. By contrast, USA Today buried favorable economic analysis from the Federal Reserves Beige Book on page 5 of its Money section while the Posts Henderson only briefly mentioned it in her inflation story.

     Both writers led with reports about a five-year-high in inflation, although the overall inflation rate in 2005, 3.4 percent, was virtually unchanged from the 2004 rate, 3.3 percent. Additionally, core inflation, a more accurate measure of inflation as it excludes volatile fuel and energy prices, was unchanged from 2004 at 2.2 percent.

     Hagenbaugh did note that core inflation was slightly below the 2.3% annual average seen over the last decade, and both Hagenbaugh and Henderson ran a quote from economist Nariman Behravesh that record-high energy prices did not spill over into the rest of the economy. The Posts Henderson, however, excluded the first part of the sentence in which the Global Insight economist called low inflation the single best piece of economic news in 2005. TheBusiness & Media Institute cited Henderson in December 2005 for misleading spin on inflation data.

     While the Business & Media Institute has also previously documented how energy prices did not reach record highs, Behraveshs observation on the economys resilience stands in marked contrast to the medias preference for negativism.