November 20, 2007

MarketWatch Editor’s E-mail Enthusiasm for Economy Disappears in His Journalists’ Reports

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 11:18 pm

I receive the old-fashioned text version of MarketWatch’s daily e-mail. That version of the e-mail always starts out with a short note from the editor about something that is being covered at the site that day.

Monday’s e-mail from Steve Kerch, assistant managing editor/personal finance, was uncharacteristically enthusiastic about the economy:

You have to wonder about all those doomsayers who predict the U.S. economy is on the brink of recession when you look at hotel rooms in New York that are filled at $600 a night, airplanes packed with passengers paying top dollar for flights to the Caribbean and Europe and highways jammed with cars guzzling $3-plus gallons of gas.

As far as travel goes this Thanksgiving holiday, the American consumer is in full rally mode. And it’s not just the short jaunt to a family dinner on Thursday that’s on the menu: More and more folks are making the Thanksgiving week a major vacation window, with international travel in particular seeing a big jump.

Thanksgiving long ago turned from a one-day holiday into a four-day weekend as population migration forced more folks to travel longer distances for family gatherings. But with each passing year it seems the holiday gets extended further, a fall break to bookend spring break four months later.

….. All those people who can afford these trips sure have something to be thankful for. And even if you aren’t one of the crowd that’s on the move, you can be thankful those folks are helping prop up the economy.

Kerch’s enthusiasm wasn’t exactly reflected in MarketWatch reporter Greg Robb’s story that day on the state of the economy (MarketWatch links require free registration). Also note how the headline doesn’t reflect the story’s content (bold is mine):

Economists think U.S. can dodge recession

While the U.S. economy faces a higher risk of recession from credit markets, housing and energy prices, the economists surveyed “still do not see a recession as the most likely outcome,” said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, the president of the National Association for Business Economics, who conducted the survey.

The median forecast expects the economy to slow in the fourth quarter to a 1.5% GDP growth rate and then gradually improve over the next year.

The economy grew at a 3.9% rate in the third quarter, and many economists expect an upward revision above 4.5% when the government revises the data on Nov. 29.

But according to the survey, some of the 50 economists expect a much steeper slowdown.

The five lowest forecasters expect growth at a paltry 0.5% rate in the fourth quarter and a 0.2% rate in the first quarter. But none forecast negative growth.

Given the unanaimity that growth will be positive, wouldn’t a more accurate headline have been “Economists: U.S Will Dodge Recession”?

In a Monday article about holiday travel, MarketWatch’s Laurie Mandaro turned a sunny economic outlook for the travel industry during the upcoming holiday into one involving trauma:

The travel purse is still plentiful for Thanksgiving

More crowded airports and highways this Thanksgiving travel season show U.S. consumers are overlooking high gasoline prices and falling home values when it comes to plane tickets and road trips, both more expensive than they were a year ago.

And they’re not only meeting family obligations: A growing number of air travelers are using the Thanksgiving week to take off for the Caribbean and Europe, new data show.

All this means more crowds on planes, at airports and on the roadways, prompting comparisons to another hectic experience in the nation’s collective psyche.

“It’s sort of like going to Disney in the summer,” said Barbara Higgins, vice president of customer experience for United Airlines …..

MarketWatch reporters could use an injection of Steve Kerch’s balanced perspective. And if long travel lines and heavy crowds are the worst things impacting our “collective psyche,” we truly do have a lot for which to be thankful.

Cross-posted at


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