Reporting on the Economy

Jay Livingston considers how different news organizations are spinning the recent news of 2.8% economic growth.

The Houston Chronicle splits the difference with the headline, “Is 2.8% GDP growth good news? Texas Democrats say it is, Republicans say it’s a fluke.” And, unsurprisingly, Fox News described the 2.8% as “modest.”

Livingston was surprised, however, to see the New York Times and NPR giving a mixed report. Given these organizations’ liberal slant, wouldn’t we expect them to give an unambiguously positive spin on the data?

My response is that it’s still many months before the election! At this point, liberal-leaning news editors are still in the business of keeping expectations down. Wait till October if you want to see some serious spinning from both sides.

P.S. No, I don’t think that the New York Times is biased in the way that Fox News is biased; see here, for example, for my thoughts on the asymmetry of media bias. Still, I suspect that most NYT editors favor the Democrats over the Republicans.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.