ABC, NBC Spin Strong Housing Numbers Negatively
A new batch of real estate data gave the media a chance to pull out its recipe for half-baked reporting on the housing market.
On July 25, a housing report released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) performed better than expected but ABC and NBCâs July 25 evening newscasts spun the story negatively, with NBC even floating talk of a housing âbubble.â
Neither network mentioned that five days earlier Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke assessed the housing slowdown as âorderlyâ or that NAR chief economist David Lereah forecasted in January that the housing market would ânormalizeâ from its record-setting 2005 existing home sales mark.
NBC âNightly Newsâ Brian Williams reported that âsales were down 1.3 percent last month,â while home âprices crept up at the slowest pace in more than a decadeâ before turning to NBC News chief financial correspondent Anne Thompson to take âa look at how Americans are adjusting to a housing market thatâs really on the bubble.â
On ABCâs âWorld News Tonightâ anchor Charles Gibson said âsales of existing homes fell in June, the 8th decline in the past 10 months, and the backlog of unsold homes grew. There are more than 3.7 millions homes sitting on the market right now unsold.â
Itâs âa remarkable turnaround for a housing market that seemed to defy gravity for years,â mused Gibson.
âThe downturn in the housing market so far appears to be orderly,â the career economist told the House Financial Services Committee on July 20.
Whatâs more, in framing their stories, ABC and NBC presented a bleaker picture than actually exists. Home sales are cooling off but not as dramatically as real estate experts had anticipated.
As the Reuters reporter Zubin Jelveh reported on July 25, the âseasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.62 million units in Juneâ was a dip from the â6.71 millionâ houses calculated in May. Even so, âanalysts had expected home resales to slow even further to a 6.58 million unit rate.â
In a January 10 news release, the NAR predicted 2006 would see a total of 6.79 million homes, a number âwhich would be the second highest on record.â
Far from being a turnaround or a bubble burst, the housing market is performing strongly in historical terms according to the NAR.
âThere were 7,072,000 existing-home sales in all of 2005, up 4.2 percent from 6,784,000 in 2004,â the National Association of Realtors reported in a January 25 press release. âThis is the fifth consecutive annual record; NAR began tracking the sales series in 1968,â the release added.
Whatâs more, NAR chief economist David Lereah â whom NBCâs Anne Thompson featured in her July 25 story â began 2006 urging the press to take cooling sales with a grain of salt.
âWe donât need to break a record every year for the housing market to be good â in fact, cooling sales are necessary for the long-term health of this vital sector,â Lereah wrote in a January 10 press release.
In a release entitled âHousing Market to âNormalizeâ in 2006,â Lereah argued that âA modest slowdown in home sales, coupled with improvements in housing inventory, means the market is in the process of normalization. That will help to bring balance between home buyers and sellers, yet sales will remain historically strong.â
The Business & Media Institute has repeatedly written on the mediaâs obsession with a devastating âhousing bubble,â such as ABCâs Elizabeth Vargas warning on the May 19, 2005, âWorld News Tonightâ that âthe run up in housing pricesâ was âbeginning to look something like the boom in Internet stocks, and we know what happened there.â