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The Role of Media and the Recession

Every time we turn around, the "R" word is there - Recession! Recession! Recession!

Because we live in an intense, 24-hour news cycle via television, in print and on the internet, the media has a hold on us from every angle. The question is, whether they declare it or not, are we really in a recession?

The generally accepted definition of a recession is a decline in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for two or more consecutive quarters in a year. Moreover, to date, according to the experts, we have yet to experience this within the past year.

In spite of this, the media has been undeniably over-saturating the avenues of communication with stories, opinions and talk about our recession woes, clearly affecting our thoughts, opinions and actions.

"The ‘Recession' is a Media Myth," by John R. Lott, Jr. of FOX News (published online April 1, 2008) offered this opinion on the matter:

"A Nexis search on news stories during the three-month period from July 2000 through September 2000 using the keywords "economy recession US" produces 1,388. By contrast, the same search over just the last month finds 3,166. Or, even more telling, take the three months from July through September last year, when the GDP was growing at a phenomenal 4.9 percent. The same type of Google search shows 2,475 news stories."

These negative stories, Lott pointed, were despite the fact that seasonally adjusted civilian employment was 650,000 people greater than it was a year ago, personal income grew at a strong half of one percent in February alone and the unemployment rate (in April) of 4.8 percent is still lower than the average unemployment rate under both Presidents Clinton and (George W.) Bush.

Some observers contend that politics—namely whether a Republican or Democrat is in the Oval Office—sways media viewpoints. Still others point out that the media essentially ignores their own reporting of any favorable economic statistics, while simultaneously generating negative stories about a recession.

Then there are the stories written by economists and business reporters who believe they are only reporting and attempting to interpret economic indicators, and that the reporting of those positive or negative indicators does not play a role in promoting the notion of a recession.

Regardless of the position one takes on this issue, it is clear that the way in which the media frames their stories--about a recession, natural disaster, global warming, celebrity name it--has a big influence on us all.

Our job, as media consumers, is to consider every angle in order to gain a balanced view and understanding of what may, or may not be, reality.

Lysa Allman-Baldwin possesses over 12 years of experience as a Freelance Writer. Her feature articles covering a wide variety of topics appear regularly in several print and on-line publications.

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