When Good News For Biden Is No News For Beltway Media
Reprinted with permission from Press Run
Friday's job numbers released by the Department of Labor were shockingly good. Easily beating analysts' expectations, the U.S. economy posted 943,000 new positions in the month of July, as the unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent delivering one of the strongest reports of the last decade. It was welcome news not only for President Joe Biden, since presidents are routinely graded on the strength of the job market, but for the U.S. economy as it tries to free itself from the year-and-a-half constraints of the pandemic.
Friday's red-hot accounting also went off like a firecracker on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average soaring to new heights, setting its 44th record-high close of 2021. That benefits 60 million Americans who participate in 401K accounts and whose retirement funds balloon every time the Dow soars.
So, the fantastic jobs news and record-setting Dow climb were treated as a huge deal by the press, right? Recall that back in May, when a disappointing jobs report badly missed expectations, the press hovered over the story for days, suggesting Biden faced an economic crisis, while Republican critics condemned his handling of the economy. So to be fair and to be consistent, the media ought to have treated the July numbers just as intensely as it did the May findings, right?
Turns out lots of news outlets weren't that interested in the breakthrough job news. As has become custom, good news under Biden is often treated as no news by the press, which is far more enthusiastic pushing Biden "crisis" stories. (Remember this April headline from Politico? "How Good News Could Complicate the Biden Agenda")
Three days before the sterling jobs report, CNN's Chris Cillizza announced Biden was suffering through "the worst week of his presidency." What was the evidence of that? In part, Cillizza pointed to the fact that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had tested positive for Covid.
Wait, what? Addicted to the Dems in Disarray storyline, journalists have trouble properly focusing on good news for Democrats, like last week's economic home run.
For the blockbuster jobs report, lots of news sites greeted the development with a shrug. At 4 p.m. on Friday, roughly seven hours after the job numbers were released, the story was highlighted in the 37th headline as you scrolled down the NBC News homepage, and ran behind such pressing reports as "Scientists Unveil Extinct Ice Age Lion Cubs Pulled From Russian Permafrost," and "What to Buy in August and What Can Wait."
Truly stunning fact: Friday's "NBC Nightly News" did not mention the jobs report.
At the CBS News homepage on Friday afternoon, none of the top 50 headlines at that time addressed the jackpot economic report. CBS News did find space of this headline, though: "How to Watch Team USA Men's Basketball Compete For Gold Medal."
Another stunning fact: Friday's "CBS Evening News" did not mention the jobs report.
Online at ABC News, the jobs report was shut out in the afternoon, making room for stories about a Buffalo stopping traffic at Yellowstone National Park, the US women's volleyball Olympic victory, and a movie review of "Green Knight."
When readers clicked on the "U.S." section at ABC News' homepage, none of the top 13 headlines listed were about jobs. If they scrolled down further, at the bottom right corner they'd finally catch a glimpse of the headline for a video report, "Biden Touts Jobs Report Numbers, But Says There Is More Work Left to be Done."
To its credit, Friday's "ABC World News Tonight" did mention the jobs report, but not until the end of the broadcast.
The Washington Post slotted the blockbuster workplace numbers as its 11th most important headline on its website, behind an article about Sen. Joe Manchin's houseboat.
At CNN? By Friday afternoon the jobs report had been blacked out, as the network's homepage made way for "This Underrated Form of Exercise is So Good for You," and "Lucy Lawless Reunites With 'Xena' Costar."
Visiting the "CNN Biz" homepage, readers did find "The US Added 943,000 Jobs, The Biggest Gain Since August 2020." But that was immediately followed by a pessimistic reported headlined, "The Big Picture On Jobs is Still Grim." There, CNN stressed that employers were still struggling to find workers, thanks in part to the runaway jobs market.
The press has been slightly obsessed with that economic narrative all year. Eagerly echoing complaints from Republicans and the business community that workers had become lazy because of the federal assistance paid out during the pandemic, news outlets have hammered that point and been portraying it was bad news for Biden. Worse, the coverage often only focused on the viewpoint of business owners, not on employees.
But when there was great news for workers — and for Biden — in the form of nearly one million new jobs posted in July, the press was far less interested.
For the record, some news organizations got the story right. Late Friday afternoon, the New York Times' jobs report update was still prominently displayed as the second headline on the paper's homepage. And at the Wall Street Journal, its jobs story was the top headline all day long.
Proving once again that good journalism isn't really that hard.
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