The media circus

I can’t remember a time when the media has been in such a frenzy aided and abetted by economists and politicians.

I don’t have much to say about the dire forecasts – I am not an economist – but all this talk about how bad it is right now is way way overblown.

From November to December 2007 (last year) the economy dropped 19,000 jobs but for the year employment was up strongly and the media hardly wimpered.  Fast forward to this year, the economy lost 34,000 jobs – only slightly more than last year – this is on an employment base of over 17 million people. For the year the annualized employment figures are up 1.5% or 260,000 more people working in 2008 than were working in 2007.

And the media is using words like carnage, devestation, the worst employment picture in decades, etc.

Why the frenzy?  Can someone in the media explain this to me?  The reality is that all this sensationalism is likely contributing to the downturn.

The media should save the sensationalism and report facts – and limit the use of such wacky words like carnage.  Carnage?

On the CBC news at 6 pm (radio) I swear the announcers voice fluttered when she mentioned the outrageous unemployment rate of 6.6%.    Canada’s unemployment rate is lower than the US – for cripes sake – first time I can remember in my lifetime that this was the case and I can’t find it mentioned in the Canadian media anywhere!  This is the labour market story of the decade and the media is talking about the carnage of 260,000 more jobs created this year.

And of course it is doubly enervating that Flaherty and Harper have now realized they will get political gains by talking about just how bad it is (that whole steady hand thing).  Why?  Why exacerbate this stuff?

They will end up getting what they are forecasting.

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8 Responses to The media circus

  1. mikel says:

    Simple, because the national media is largely located here in southern ontario, where it IS dire. It’s find if such things happen on the prairies or out east, but if ontario is affected, then its REALLY serious. And in many places it HAS been ‘dire’, although not all. Waterloo is pretty high into technology and universities so even our housing prices have not dropped. But ontario is starting to look like the maritimes. SOME cities are looking dirt poor (London, Windsor), and the list is growing enough for the media to finally take notice.

    There are two other reasons, first, if you proclaim how bad everything is, then you have a justification for reducing taxes and social spending. I mentioned before that British Petroleum axed 10% of their workforce even though they made record profits. Their justification was the worldwide economy.

    If people are afraid then they will accept anything. Graham is claiming that these dire circumstances demand lowering corporate income tax to below ten percent, even though readers here know that corporations pay the least amount in NB of any provinces budget.

    That’s what happens when you have a media monopoly. But actually, I’m surprised its not worse. Ontario is now a ‘have not’ province, so I thought the screaming would be far louder. When NCR booted most of its staff and Lazy boy closed its factory (its huge building still sits empty on a main street) there was a story in the local weekly rag and then it was never mentioned again in the press. In NB, at least the media pays attention to closures.

  2. You have a point but Ontario still added 93,000 jobs in 2008 (the annualized figures) and there were 37,000 more people working in Ontario in December 2008 than December 2007. So dire? I agree that on a specific community basis there are some serious challenges but the economy added 93,000 jobs in Ontario in 2008. That’s the bottom line and it is not mentioned anywhere in the mayhem.

  3. mikel says:

    That actually wasn’t my point, sorry. The economy is only ever ‘dire’ for specific people. Ontario as a whole is a ‘have not’ province, something that has NEVER occurred before. That really can’t be underestimated, so by that yardstick its surprising that more yelling and screaming isn’t going on. By the standards of the provinces which have ALWAYS been ‘have not’ provinces then that’s really not much to get excited about. But this is ontario, the province where people are used to looking down their noses at other parts of the country. You can read some of Andrew Coyne’s stuff on the subject, which is pretty interesting, and he’s usually the more moderate of pundits.

    ‘reality’ has no place in media as you well know, if anything its the reverse. Northern communities have been emptying for years but the media never so much as blinked an eye. Sudbury was still losing people even when nickel was 25 dollars, and that market fell out a year ago, yet the media STILL didn’t blink, in fact in all this crisis you’d almost never know its mostly a regional and industry problem. Like everywhere else in the country lumber has been in crisis for ages, but never got so much as a mention (its true that its much smaller a percentage of the economy as other places, but still)

    But for a specific class of people it has ALWAYS been ‘dire’, and that number is growing. The media doesn’t really care about them, but this feeds into another pet project you’ve often commented on-the ‘unfair’ equalization scheme. In other words, like any province, ontario wants MORE, and like Quebec, it has the media and the clout to do something about it. Seldom mentioned anywhere else is the new legislation which will give Ontario 22 more seats in Parliament, and McGuinty says even THAT isn’t enough. No doubt Harper is hoping most of those will vote tory, so whether it gets through the legislature is an open question.

    So like the media in New Brunswick, the ontario media has its own unstated goals (I forgot to mention the corporate sectors biggest claim-lower CIT-like in NB, if people are worried they’ll do anything to address the problem, even things that make no sense. At least Irving is pretty honest about it, although I don’t think they still label their editorials as “WE say”, which everybody knew meant Irving.

  4. richard says:

    “This is the labour market story of the decade and the media is talking about the carnage of 260,000 more jobs created this year.”

    Huh? The market story of the decade is the loss of jobs relative to number of those seeking work in the US – that’s why things are somewhat better here. US news dominates.

    Catastrophe is easy to sell when the value of your retirement portfolio has dropped by 30-50%, over a very short period. What’s coming next? Not good news.

  5. Dan F says:

    The reason dropping job numbers is a bigger deal this year than increasing numbers last year is three-fold, in my opinion:

    1. The job increases over the last decade or more are made up to a great extent by low-paying, dead-end service positions, while the many of the loses this past year were in high-paying finance (at least in the US) and union positions. While many so called economists had nothing but contempt for the unionized workers, their craven desire for laissez-faire, debt-slave workforces did not account for reductions in disposable income following their successful attack on ‘middle class’ wages.

    2. Through fiat fraud and fakery, a housing and other asset bubble has been created that can only be fixed through massive inflation in the price of everything else, or a natural correction through supply and demand mechanisms. Our governments have apparently opted to attempt the former, but do not seem to have the intellect, ability or balls to successfully pull it off. Real income is continuing to decrease, while necessities, such as housing and food, pull ever increasing purchasing power out of the economy. Less jobs means less people who can truly afford a house, washing yet more of the housing industry’s foundation away, causing further spirals of job loss and spending decreases in related industries.

    3. The ponzi or pyramid scheme setup of modern fiat-debt currencies and the banking industry at large require ever expanding monetary activity (where else is the interest on loans supposed to come from?). The loss of jobs now, following the Oct ’08 credit crisis ensures that the situation cannot return to status quo anytime soon, thus again expanding ripples of economic meltdown.

    People seem to be holding out hope in the next set of politicians, but as the campaign promises are once again broken, I predict we see no swift reversal of the economic downturn.

  6. mikel says:

    That’s the reason it IS a ‘bigger deal’ to the population, but we’re talking about the national media. Real wages have been stagnant for the average worker for decades, and the number of ‘low tech jobs’ have been the median for just as long. The media couldn’t care less. Richard’s additional point seems closer-those with money now face the prospect of losses, which is always big news.

    A lot of the job losses are due to manufacturing leaving the country, NOT the credit crisis. Investment has been shored up by the federal government so banks still have cash. It WILL get worse because other places of investment-namely pension funds, are just starting to feel it.

    What the ‘status quo’ is, is a good question. It’s been since 1879 that New Brunswick has been ‘waiting for things to return to the status quo’ and it never happened, because of changing markets and free trade treaties (namely the creation of canada). With globalization and free trade agreements all over the world, people shouldn’t ignore the possibility that Canada may be ‘waiting for the status quo’ for a hundred years-or until people demand legislative changes to the ‘status quo’ trade deals.

  7. Tom Rivington says:

    Maybe the reporting is less a case of bias and more a case of the reporters are just plain dumb. They don’t do research, they don’t ask the right questions, they don’t understand the topics they are writing on. Whenever I read an article written on a subject I am familiar with I ask myself, “does this reporter understand the issue?”. Sometimes I think they are sacrificing the quality of the piece in order to get it submitted for print. Maybe thinking there is an agenda is over-thinking it.

  8. mikel says:

    Reporters ‘report’. They don’t usually decide on the stories or on the way things are reported. Those are editorial decisions. New Brunswick is a perfect laboratory for that, its true that an issue can come along that reporters simply don’t understand, which is why reporting has basically become ‘news’ and no ‘analysis’. But in New Brunswick if the Irving press doesn’t report that the pulp mill was fined for polluting over its legal limit, and that PCB’s are suspected present on a cargo ship it sold, then that’s not a reporters fault. All they had to do is see it at the CBC website.

    However, thats where the ‘bias’ comes in and why there is virtually NO labour news in the mainstream press apart from strikes. That’s not because reporters are ‘dumb’, its because every paper has an owner and an editorial board. There are some things they simply don’t like talking about. So when the bottom dropped out of nickel and hundreds of Sudburians lost their jobs, why wasn’t it news? Was it because Globe and Mail reporters don’t understand nickel prices? Of course not. As David often mentions, the ‘exodus’ from the maritimes should be national news on almost a weekly basis. If Ontario starts bleeding population at even nearly the rate of NB then it WILL be a ‘national disaster’. That’s not stupidity, its simply the prevalant media bias. That doesn’t need the word ‘agenda’, because that makes it specifically sound as if editors are sitting around saying “how can we underreport X and over report Y”. There are just some things that are more worthy of print than others.

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