REPORT: Lack of demand: Cable channels, Sunday shows leave economists on the sidelines in recovery debate

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI, ELBERT VENTURA, ROB SAVILLO, LAUREN AUERBACH, DIANNA PARKER & CHRISTINE SCHWEN

A Media Matters study of Sunday talk shows and 12 cable news programs from January 25 through February 8 found that few economists have been given time on television to talk about the economic recovery plan. During 139 1/2 hours of programming in which the economic recovery legislation was discussed, economists made 25 guest appearances out of a total of 460 -- only 5 percent.

In the hour following President Obama's February 9 press conference -- during which he gave a brief address about the economic recovery legislation currently moving through Congress -- cable news programs featured guests and panelists to discuss Obama's remarks. But CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC did not bring on a single economist to discuss the plan. The absence of economists in the post-press conference discussion was consistent with the observation made by Crooksandliars.com founder John Amato in a February 4 article on The Huffington Post: "I'm sure you've heard about the hundreds of economists that are either for or against President Obama's stimulus plan. My question to the media is: Where are they?" Indeed, a Media Matters for America review of the Sunday talk shows and 12 cable news programs from January 25 through February 8 found that during 139 1/2 hours of programming on Sunday mornings and weekday afternoons and evenings, of 460 total guest appearances in discussions about the economic recovery legislation and debate in Congress, only 25 were made by economists -- a mere 5 percent.

Media Matters purposefully used a broad definition of "economist" to be inclusive, coding as an economist any guest who has a master's degree or doctorate in economics or who has served as an economics professor at a university or college, as best as we could determine. (All current members of Congress were coded as non-economists.)

On cable news channels, economists made a total of 18 guest appearances out of a total of 399 guest appearances in broadcasts that included guest discussions of the stimulus. The show that featured the most guest appearances by economists was Fox News' Glenn Beck, which featured seven: Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore (who appeared twice), Barry Ritholtz, Amity Shlaes, Thomas Sowell, and Ben Stein:

Cable channels

Program

Economist guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

%

Total guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

Hours of programming in which stimulus was discussed

The Situation Room

3

4%

73

30

Lou Dobbs Tonight

1

4%

27

10

Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull

0

0%

26

8

Anderson Cooper 360 (10 p.m. ET hour only)

0

0%

31

9

Your World with Neil Cavuto

2

4%

53

10

Glenn Beck

7

33%

21

9

The O'Reilly Factor

1

7%

15

7

Hannity

0

0%

44

10

Hardball with Chris Matthews (5 p.m. ET hour only)

1

2%

46

10

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

1

3%

37

9

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

1

7%

15

9

The Rachel Maddow Show

1

9%

11

8

Among the Sunday shows, ABC's This Week was the only one to feature at least one economist on each broadcast:

Sunday shows

Program

Economist guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

%

Total guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

Number of broadcasts in which stimulus was discussed

This Week

3

15%

20

3

Face the Nation

1

14%

7

3

Meet the Press

2

14%

14

3

Fox News Sunday

1

5%

20

3

The following is a list of all the guest appearances by economists coded in the study:

Date

Network

Show

Guest

1/28/2009

MSNBC

Hardball with Chris Matthews

Armey, Dick

2/5/2009

CNN

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Ferguson, Niall

2/4/2009

MSNBC

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

Huffington, Arianna

1/25/2009

ABC

This Week

Krugman, Paul

2/4/2009

MSNBC

The Rachel Maddow Show

Krugman, Paul

1/28/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Laffer, Arthur

1/28/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Moore, Stephen

2/2/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Moore, Stephen

1/27/2009

MSNBC

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Orszag, Peter

2/5/2009

CNN

The Situation Room

Orszag, Peter

2/5/2009

FNC

Your World with Neil Cavuto

Orszag, Peter

2/8/2009

ABC

This Week

Reich, Robert

2/3/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Ritholtz, Barry

1/30/2009

CNN

The Situation Room

Rivlin, Alice

2/8/2009

CBS

Face the Nation

Romer, Christina

1/26/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Shlaes, Amity

1/30/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Sowell, Thomas

1/30/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Stein, Ben

2/6/2009

FNC

The O'Reilly Factor

Stein, Ben

1/25/2009

NBC

Meet the Press

Summers, Larry

2/8/2009

ABC

This Week

Summers, Larry

2/8/2009

FNC

Fox News Sunday

Summers, Larry

1/30/2009

FNC

Your World with Neil Cavuto

Wheelan, Charles

2/1/2009

NBC

Meet the Press

Zandi, Mark

2/6/2009

CNN

The Situation Room

Zandi, Mark

A list of all the guests who discussed the recovery plan classified as either economists or non-economists is available here.

As Media Matters has documented, media coverage of the plan has been marred by conservative falsehoods and misinformation.

Methodology

Media Matters coded the following cable news shows for the weeks of January 26-30 and February 2-6:

The Situation Room (4-7 p.m. ET), CNN

Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN

Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull, CNN

Anderson Cooper 360 (10 p.m. ET hour only), CNN

Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox News

Glenn Beck, Fox News

The O'Reilly Factor (8 p.m. ET broadcast only), Fox News

Hannity, Fox News

Hardball with Chris Matthews (5 p.m. ET broadcast only), MSNBC

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, MSNBC

Countdown with Keith Olbermann (8 p.m. ET broadcast only), MSNBC

The Rachel Maddow Show (9 p.m. ET broadcast only), MSNBC

Media Matters also coded the Sunday-morning talk shows on ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC for January 25, February 1, and February 8. All shows were one hour long except for CBS' Face the Nation, which runs for 30 minutes:

Face the Nation, CBS

Fox News Sunday, Fox

Meet the Press, NBC

This Week, ABC

Media Matters counted as appearances instances in which someone appeared as a guest on a show -- either live during the show or in a taped interview aired during the show -- and discussed the economic recovery plan. If a guest appeared more than once in a broadcast during separate segments, that guest was counted only one time for the purposes of this study. Reported stories and news packages were not included in the study. Guests who did not participate in a discussion of the plan were also not included in the study.

All guests coded were classified as either an "economist" or "other." To be classified as an economist, a guest must have received an advanced degree in economics or served as an economics professor at a college or university. We used bios, profiles, resumes, and news stories available online to determine as best we could each guest's educational background and professional experience. We coded all current members of Congress as "other" without assessing their educational or prior professional background. Ben Stein, whose bio states that he "worked as an economist at The Department of Commerce," was coded as an economist.

Broadcast hours calculated for this study include only broadcasts in which at least one guest was on to discuss the economic recovery plan. Transcripts for shows were reviewed through the Nexis news database. Transcripts for CNN shows were also obtained through CNN's website. Shows for which no transcripts were available were viewed via digital recordings.

Posted In
Economy
Stories/Interests
Economic Recovery Plan
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