In light of news that the economy declined in the fourth quarter of 2012, media outlets have a responsibility to refocus their coverage of the economy, which has largely ignored the issue of economic growth and instead highlighted secondary concerns.
A January 30 report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis highlighted a grim reality - in the fourth quarter of 2012, the economy contracted by 0.1 percent. Media outlets have been rightfully promoting the figure, which is in stark contrast to their recent approach in covering the problem of stagnant economic growth.
A Media Matters report analyzing television news coverage of the debt ceiling found that the topic of economic growth was largely absent from discussions. In fact, of the 273 segments analyzed, only 33 even mentioned that growth should be a priority of any fiscal policy.
Economists, however, have strongly promoted growth as a means of reducing the deficit. Throughout the debt ceiling debate, many attempted to argue that economic expansion was far more important than worrying about short-term deficit reduction. Since the media ignored the topic of growth and rarely hosted economists as part of discussions, their voices went largely unheard.
In light of this economic contraction, economists are taking the opportunity to re-inject growth and jobs back into public debate. The Economic Policy Institute released the following statement:
The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today that the U.S. economy contracted at a 0.1 percent annualized rate in the last quarter of 2012. While this quarter's contraction likely does not signal a return to recession (it was driven by decelerating inventory investments and a very large reduction in defense spending, which are not likely to be repeated in coming quarters), the economy had grown at an average rate of just 2.1 percent for the first three quarters of 2012, which is not fast enough to lead to rapid improvements in the nation's job situation. Today's data emphasizes the need to reorient the policy debate back to growth and jobs and away from rapid fiscal contraction.
Economists have long realized that growth is far more important than what the media has been focusing on, namely deficit and debt reduction. With this clear indication that economic growth is in fact a pressing concern, will the media shift its focus to acknowledge this reality?