By David Madland
The mainstream media has a profound impact on politics, helping everyday Americans determine what topics people think are important, shape how they feel about issues, and even how they vote.
Alternative media outlets such as blogs and social networking sites have proliferated in recent years, yet most people still receive their news from the mainstream media, which is especially true for economic news. This report focuses on how the mainstream media covers the economy, a subject where fundamental political questions arise about how income is generated and allocated among individual Americans and the businesses and companies they work for and sometimes invest in. Specifically, in its coverage of economic issues, does the media provide a balanced discussion of who gets what and why? Or instead is coverage biased toward a particular interest group?
Based on a unique, quantitative study, this report finds that media coverage of economic issues is biased and consistently fails to live up to expectations of balance and fairness. On a range of economic issues, the perspective of workers is largely missing from media coverage, while the views of business are frequently presented. The findings are based on analysis of coverage of four economic issues—employment, minimum wage, trade, and credit card debt—in the leading newspaper and television outlets in 2007.
Included in this analysis is coverage by the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, U.S.A. Today, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post—the five papers with the largest circulation nationwide—alongside the three major TV broadcast networks, ABC News, CBS News, and NBC News, as well as the three leading cable news networks, CNN, FOX News, and CNBC. The four economic issues were chosen because they represent a range of economic issues that impact ordinary citizens and that many citizens have defined opinions about.
Read the full report (pdf)