Labor Day isn’t just a holiday. It’s one more chance for the media to bemoan the state of the American worker. This isn’t a case of glass half full or half empty. In the news, there isn’t any glass at all – it’s been outsourced to Asia.
TV reporters portray today’s work world as one part “Office Space” and another “Bridge Over the River Kwai” without the catchy whistling. “We’re working ourselves to death,” ABC’s Diane Sawyer told “Good Morning America” viewers on August 29 after a study connected some jobs with high blood pressure.
Less than a week earlier and still on ABC, Charles Gibson warned BlackBerries had “become electronic leashes.” That meant the portable e-mail devices were like “alcohol, drugs and gambling.” In other words, reporter Dan Harris told us how “for many people, the habit has become an addiction.”
Newsflash: Americans are addicted to their jobs – even at ABC. The network even held a little labor party when Gibson agreed to work both his morning gig at “Good Morning America” and anchor the evening broadcast. The May 24 morning show re-ran a clip from comedian Jimmy Kimmel that depicted Gibson doing the evening news asleep at his desk.
That work ethic is OK for TV anchors, just not everyone else. Workers are depicted as downtrodden because evil companies dare to make profits. Jobs are either outsourced to other nations or pay so poorly that employees need government to save them from The Man. Wal-Mart has become the media Mephistopheles – low pay, few benefits and putting mom-and-pop shops out of business.
On August 16, heading into Labor Day, ABC’s Jake Tapper even warned of “an interesting irony,” that workers should be wary about keeping their jobs. According to Tapper, “Labor Day may be a celebration of the American worker. But to some employment experts, it marks the beginning of the period of the year when workers become most vulnerable to getting fired.”
As it is often with news, things aren’t quite the way they seem. If you labor through the mountains of media, even the newsies tell a different story.
Turn to NBC and they talk about the thousands of teachers needed around the country. According to John Seigenthaler of the “Nightly News,” “200,000 new instructors will be needed this year” and “2 million over the next decade.” The problem is so acute that administrators have offered signing bonuses and four-day work weeks just to attract teachers.
The August 13 New York Times reported the nursing shortage has become so bad, the U.S. government was “predicting a nationwide shortfall of more than 800,000 nurses by 2020.” There are similar needs in the manufacturing field. The August 14 Los Angeles Times cautioned that “about 90 percent of manufacturers say they are having trouble filling skilled jobs such as machinists and technicians,” according to a new survey by the National Association of Manufacturers.
CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo went on the August 3 “Today” show and told viewers, “based on the executives that I'm speaking with and just looking at this economy, there's real vibrancy.” She added that at 4.6 percent, the unemployment rate represented “virtually full employment, full employment in this country.” Unemployment went up two tenths of 1 percent after that prediction, but it’s still below 5 percent. Economists used to tell us that 6 percent was full employment.
When journalists hunt for job stories, they ignore the good news and portray the working life like working death. Maybe the answer lies in studies that show how liberal most in the media really are. That impacts how they view the world. The Annenberg Public Policy Center looked at how journalists classified themselves in 2005 and found more than three times as many called themselves liberal as conservative. A closer look at the results might indicate many who called themselves “moderate” were either lying or delusional.
CNN “In the Money” co-host Andy Serwer showed how “moderate” the media can be on June 24. In a discussion about a minimum wage increase, he discounted the argument that “it's inflationary, and it will cause layoffs” by saying “I think that's a lot of bull.”
Over at The New York Times, they assign economic coverage to Louis Uchitelle, the author of “The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences.” He actually wrote that current layoffs are worse for workers now than during the worst economic time in U.S. history. “The Great Depression was less damaging,” Uchitelle wrote in his book, because workers blamed the system, not themselves.
What’s the point in having a holiday? In the news media, every day is Labor Day.
Dan Gainor is a career journalist and The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow. He is also director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.