WSJ falsely suggested that "Planet CBS" news report ignored Greenspan statement on economy


Accusing CBS Evening News of an overly bleak portrayal of the economy, an August 19 Wall Street Journal editorial falsely suggested that a July 20 CBS report ignored Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan's assessment that the "outlook is one of sustained economic growth" in order to cast the economy as "very tenuous." In fact, the CBS News report noted Greenspan's economic forecast, and featured the exact Greenspan quote the Journal provided. Also, it was not CBS' position that the economy is "very tenuous," but that of an unidentified man who was interviewed for the report.

The editorial cited a study conducted by the Free Market Project, a division of the conservative Media Research Center. According to the Journal, the study concluded that "the media keep saying the economy stinks," which the Journal posited as a reason why "so many Americans tell pollsters they feel bad about an economy that's been so good." As evidence, the Journal pointed to the July 20 Evening News report (wrongly claiming it was from July 22).

The Journal editorial contrasted CBS' purported negative statement on the economy with Greenspan's positive assessment:

To cite just one example, a CBS Evening News story on July 22 [sic] said that the economy is "very tenuous. It could fall apart at any moment. One piece of bad news, one additional terrorist attack, one negative corporate earnings, and it goes right down again." Contrast that funeral dirge with what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress that same day: "The outlook is one of sustained economic growth." And this was after Dan Rather had departed Planet CBS.

The Journal failed to note, however, that the July 20 CBS report quoted Greenspan saying the same thing. CBS news correspondent Trish Regan contrasted Greenspan's upbeat assessment of the economy with reports of significant manufacturing job losses in June. From Regan's report:

REGAN: Alan Greenspan came to Congress today with a rosy forecast.

GREENSPAN: Our baseline outlook for the U.S. economy is one of sustained economic growth.

REGAN: Translation? He thinks the economy's in pretty good shape. But his sunny forecast isn't being felt on the factory floor -- Kodak cutting up to 10,000; Hewlett-Packard 14,500 layoffs -- or on the streets, where reality trumps forecasts.

Moreover, CBS News did not say the economy is "very tenuous." That was the statement from an unidentified "man on the street," interviewed by Regan:

REGAN: In June, nearly 111,000 jobs were lost, making it the worst stretch of job losses in nearly a year and a half.

[On-screen graphic -- Total Jobs Lost In June: 110,996]

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's very tenuous. It could fall apart at any moment. One bad piece of news, one additional perhaps terrorist attack, one negative corporate earnings, and it goes right down again.

While the Free Market Project study correctly noted that the July 20 CBS report featured Greenspan's comments, it claimed Regan "devoted her entire story to undermining his statement."

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