Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Little Press Bias

Here's the headline from

Weakest holiday season in years

That's pretty alarming, isn't it? Things must be pretty bad. The economy's in the dumps.

As I read it--and perhaps I'm just inferring, and the headline writer didn't mean to imply--this year's holiday sales were worse than last year's. After all, it's the weakest holiday season in years.

But what do we read a few paragraphs into the story?

Perkins, who tracks same-store sales at 43 retail chains, said combined November-December sales rose 1.7 percent, their weakest gain since 2002.

In the overall retail sector, Thomson Financial, which also compares monthly results at 43 of the nation's largest retail chains based on analysts' estimates, said total December same-store sales rose just 0.5 percent compared to its revised estimate for a 0.7 percent gain...

Even though November same-store sales rose a much better 4 percent overall, the average of the two months taken together showed a 2.3 percent rise, which Thomson said is the slowest pace of growth since 2004 when sales for the two months combined also rose 2.3 percent.

The National Retail Federation, the industry's largest trade group, expects total sales for November and December combined rose 4 percent this past holiday season, which would mark the slowest pace of growth since 2002.

So it appears that holiday sales actually grew from 2006 levels, just not as robustly as some expected. That means retailers sold even more stuff.

The headline is clearly misleading. Could it be yet another example of press bias? And why would the press, specifically left-leaning CNN, want people to think the retail economy is worse than it actually is?

Hmm, I wonder.


adam smith said...

Relax Darren. Out in the real world of economics, they really do care about the second derivative--not just the slope. This is not a CNN thing. Analysts expect *increasing* growth. Concave up. Steady growth is considered failure, and zero growth is a crisis. Maybe that's unfair, but it's no vast left-wing conspiracy.

Referring to CNN as left-leaning dates you a bit. That was then, but it is not now. Of course, if you think FOX runs straight down the middle of the road, all media worldwide (other than Murdock properties) seem left to you.

Darren said...

Really? When did CNN make a right turn?

And I shouldn't have to say it again, but I don't get my news from Fox. I watch ABC World News, and read both CNN and Fox online.

You lefties really don't like Fox, do you?

David said...

Bias may well be a factor, but don't discount simple innumeracy. The kind of people who become journalists are generally not very good with numbers and mathematical reasoning, and this is often true even of business journalists.

Adam, how many CNN correspondents do you think know what a second derivative is?

allen said...

> Referring to CNN as left-leaning dates you a bit.

Oddly enough, CNN does seem to be making an effort to rehabilitate it's reputation from the time it earned the sobriquet "Clinton News Network".

You've got to love the capitalist system. Not a law, tax break or federal regulator in sight and yet CNN is trying to convince the viewing public that CNN is evenhanded and trustworthy in their reportage. A motto suggests itself.

> You lefties really don't like Fox, do you?

Thus the achingly clever variation on the name "Faux".

See how well that works? It's a French word the use of which indicates a sharing of the elevated sensibilities for which the French are so well known, facility in a language other then English and, of course, the word translates to "false". All those benefits via the substitution of a single word.

Anonymous said...

It is probably just inept headline writing.

I see this a *lot* on Yahoo, for example.

As an example, this week I found a Yahoo sports article with a headline along the lines of "LSU not favored to repeat as National Champs."

The *article* simply said that LSU was ranked 7th in the 2008-9 preliminary rankings (already?!?).

Actually, LSU has to be the most likely school to *repeat* as BCS champion next year ... because they are the only ones who can! They may not be favored to *win* the BCS championship next year, but they *have* to be the most likely team to *repeat*.

I see this sort of thing often enough on non-political issues that I now just assume that the headline writers are not very talented :-(

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

So I should not assume malice where stupidity explains things just as well? :-)

Ellen K said...

These are the same boys and girls who stated that we needed more illegal immigrants to fill jobs Americans won't do while at the same time they bemoan the rising of the unemployment figures to 5%. They also seem ignorant of the fact that most of the people who were subprime borrowers were called that because their credit scores weren't exactly stellar. I mean, I teach art and I understand that. Go figure.