A Summer of Skewed News

The Liberal Tilt in TV’s Economic Reporting

Conclusion: Recommendations For Improved Coverage

Last year, the MRC’s Free Market Project published a monograph, Dollars & Nonsense: Correcting the Media’s Top Economic Myths. The book contained ten essays written by well-credentialed conservative economists, including Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, debunking ten common media myths. These experts show that, contrary to the prevailing spin, government spending does not promote economic expansion, economic growth does not fuel inflation, and lower tax rates can often create more government revenues. 

While a basic level of economic literacy would vastly improve the quality of TV’s economic coverage, reporters don’t even need to go that far if they’re willing to follow some of journalism’s basic rules. Here are a few recommendations for better, less biased, economic coverage:

  • Reporters should refrain from presenting liberal spin and liberal assumptions as unassailable fact. For example, tax cuts don’t “cost” the economy anything and, by increasing the benefits of work and investment, lower tax rates actually help increase America’s wealth. But liberal politicians, eager to keep govern-ment’s coffers full, like to spin tax cuts as costly expenditures. Of course, both liberal and conservative politicians can spin all they want to, but good reporters shouldn’t elevate one side’s political spin by presenting it as fact, as ABC’s George Stephanopoulos did in the August 18 This Week interview.

  • Interviewers must no longer give conservative spokesman the third degree while liberals get a free ride. There’s nothing wrong with interviewers like Tim Russert asking politicians to defend conservative policies such as tax and spending cuts. But politicians who oppose tax cuts or who routinely vote for costly new programs such as a prescription drug entitlement also need to be scrutinized. Questions that simply give liberal politicians a forum to agree with a liberal premise are usually uninformative, and they’re biased if conservatives aren’t given similar opportunities to promote their policies.

  • Reporters need to include the views of free market advocates, not just “victims” in need of more government spending. Most of the flawed economic coverage is not produced by trained economic correspondents, but anchors and journalists assigned to political beats such as Capitol Hill or the White House. As the debate over a prescription drug entitlement showed, these correspondents appear more interested in attaching a sympathetic human face to a social problem than finding enough experts to give viewers a balanced briefing about the pros and cons of various solutions. TV reporters need to make sure free market experts are fully and fairly represented in coverage of economic-related matters, or their economic coverage will never be truly balanced.