Autopsy Of A Spinning Media

Last week, I took a look at how “the news” has morphed from journalism to commentary to outright prostitution. I examined how the news went from being reported on the straight unvarnished basis of the who, what, when, where, why (from the “who’s” perspective), and how to the adjective and personal opinion colored commentary that the media then tries to pass off as news.

Today I’m going to do an autopsy on a “news” piece to show just how far the media will go to protect their liberal views and spin the facts so as to obscure their true meaning and impact. I’m going to use a Reuters article as published on CNBC’s web site. It was chosen for no other reason than it was the top story on The Drudge Report when I went to that site at 12:20 pm today. The image on this post is a screen capture of how the link appeared on Drudge. As you can see, Drudge titled his link “From Bad To Worse” which I see as an editorial claim based on whatever it is that Drudge read on the other end of that link. So let’s call that “not news” but “commentary” instead. So right there, the spin has begun.

What I found at the other end of the link, however, was spin so far beyond Drudge’s three word enticement to click that I can only compare it to taking a ride on Disney’s famous Tea Cups with the speed turned up to 11. I am not going to reprint the entire article here. I don’t have the rights. And there are things in there that are indeed neutral to the point of at least mimicking news, or irrelevant to the process here as a whole. I’m hoping that what I’m doing will fall under Fair Use laws because I am editorializing/teaching. If not, I’m sure I’ll get a cease-and-desist and this post will disappear.

To begin, we have the headline:

Weekly Claims Post Rebound; Jobs Market Still in Doldrums

I immediately find an attempt here to confuse the reader. The use of the word “rebound” implies that there is something positive about the weekly numbers. In its most common usages, “rebound” connotes that you are recovering something be it a basketball or your heart. But as we will see, the word is grossly misused in this instance. The attempt to confuse is further reinforced by the implications of “still in the doldrums.” It reinforces the positive connotation of the word “rebound” while conceding that the numbers are still below where we’d want them to be. We’re left with the overall impression that something good happened, but it was not good enough.

Now the first paragraph:

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rebounded last week, pushing them back to levels consistent with modest job growth after a seasonal quirk caused a sharp drop the prior period.

There’s that word “rebound” again. Still getting that good feeling. “Pushing them back” – to me that sounds like we’re an army repelling an enemy – a good thing, especially because it is what is expected for job growth, albeit modest.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000…

But here we get some numbers, and they are not consistent with that word “rebound” that has been pounded into our heads. Unemployment increasing is bad. Unless you’re the marketing team doing the advertising work for Food Stamps.

Then we’re hit by the ever-popular prior week’s revised numbers: an actual 352,000 instead of the reported 350,000. A 2,000 increase in unemployment claims.

Are you with me? Because already we have the misuse of the hopeful word “rebound” and – count them – 5 different numbers flashing in our heads. Hold tightly, because it’s going to get more confusing…

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 365,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, fell 1,500 to 375,500.

Aha! Three more numbers, bringing our total to eight! Is your head spinning? Mine is, because no matter which of the other numbers I subtract the “fell 1,500″ from I do not get 375,500! I get 377,000 – a number that doesn’t even appear in the article!

So now that Reuters’ writers have you bamboozilated, they throw in some excuses, blame, and rationalization. They invoke the “seasonal quirk” excuse, blaming all the confusion on the month of July and automakers not doing what they were expected to do. Darn those automakers and the calendar! Darn them to heck!

But wait, there’s a small silver-tinged lining!

The four-week average of new claims dropped 12,000 between the June and July survey periods, suggesting a modest improvement in nonfarm payrolls.

A drop! That’s good, right? But what about those farmers? What happened to them? We will never know because Reuters quickly ignores them like the number they just reported does. But no matter – it’s time for some bad news, but we’ll blame that on Europe!

The labor market has suffered three months of sub-100,000 job growth as the economy slowed amid a cloud of uncertainty spawned by fears of sharp contraction in fiscal policy and debt problems in Europe.

I never did like those European debtors anyway!

The article ends with two more numbers and a verb that’s supposed to soften the blow:

The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid edged up 1,000 to 3.31 million in the week ended July 7.

Now “edged up” doesn’t sound so bad, especially with a number as low as a measly 1,000.

But there’s only one number that matters in this article, and they save that for last, hoping you’ll be too confused to understand the truth that it sadly reflects.

3.31 million.

Doesn’t sound so bad in a “news” piece peppered with words like “rebound” and “edged” and enough blame to cover a house-full of broken lamps.

3.31 million people still unemployed. And that’s just the ones who are still in the system claiming benefits while hoping to find work. It doesn’t even take into account the millions of other former workers who have just given up. Those are the people waiting for a “rebound.” They are the ones who have been “edged” out of the picture by a media so intent on protecting Barrack Obama that they have replaced their hearts and ethics with a spinning thesaurus.

Journalism died in 2008. It’s time we buried the rotting corpse.

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