As Sequester Looms, Media Silence Economists

Media ignored economists in their reports leading up to the initiation of the economically damaging across-the-board spending cuts commonly known as sequestration.

If Congress fails to act by midnight, across-the-board spending cuts of up to $85 billion in 2013 alone will take effect. While sequestration is inherently an economic issue, media are ignoring the last chance to have economists weigh in on the consequences.

Media Matters reviewed news coverage leading up to the sequestration deadline, specifically the February 28 evening news broadcasts; March 1 reports from The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times; and the March 1 morning news programs on the major cable and broadcast networks. We found that economists have been almost completely shut out. Of 122 total guests and quoted figures appearing in a total of 43 articles or television segments, one lone economist was mentioned, Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner in a report from the Journal.


Media heavily relied on political figures -- mainly members of Congress -- to give their opinions on the consequences of sequester. Of course, many of the analyses offered by non-economists largely ignore the very real negative effects of sequestration, instead turning the focus to partisan bickering and finger pointing.

Meanwhile, the negative economic effects of sequestration remain. Media Matters has previously noted that non-partisan economic forecasters long warned of the consequences of the across-the-board spending cuts. Economists predict GDP growth to slow by between 0.5 and 1.0 percent, and job losses to total between 700,000 and 1,000,000.

Today's media coverage reinforces the media's documented history of effectively shutting economists out of discussions of economic issues.


Media Matters reviewed video from March 1 morning show programs appearing on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS. Transcripts from February 28 nightly news programs on CBS, ABC, and NBC were reviewed via Nexis. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post March 1 print articles were also included in analysis. We identified and reviewed all segments that included substantial discussion of sequestration.

The following programs were included in the data: Morning Joe, Fox & Friends, Starting Point, Today, Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning.

When collecting data, Media Matters only included segments that had substantial discussion of sequestration. We did not include teasers.

We counted all guests that appeared in relevant segments, using bios, profiles, resumes, and news stories available online to determine as best we could each guest's educational background and professional experience. We also counted figures that were quoted in broadcasts or print articles, including video clips aired in a television segment.  

We defined an economist as someone who either holds an advanced degree in economics or has served as an economics professor at the college or university level. In cases where it was unclear whether the guest held an advanced degree, they were classified in the next most descriptive cohort.

Media Matters defined a political guest as any former or current elected government official or political appointee, any political strategist, or any former or current political party official (such as former senior White House adviser David Axelrod).