U.S. Economy News Hunt: What did we learn?
Last week NewsTrust organized an Economy News Hunt with the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, PBS Engage, and the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), to find quality journalism on the U.S. Economy. From October 20 to 26, our community teamed up with PBS viewers and staff and more than 130 students from the UNR Reynolds Journalism School, making it one of our largest News Hunts to date.
This Economy News Hunt was led by NewsTrust hosts Walter Cox and Marsha Iverson, along with a couple hundred reviewers, who sought out news and opinion on all aspects of the current economic crisis -- from its effects on the world markets to its impact on our own jobs, taxes and households.
During this News Hunt, we posted 557 reviews of 115 stories on the U.S. Economy last week. Here is a sampling of some of our top rated news and opinion:
How Will Treasury Pick the Banks to Save? Just Trust Them.
ProPublica (Special Report)
Into a slump
Economist (News Analysis)
General Motors, Driven to the Brink
New York Times (Investigative Report)
Job Losses Accelerate, Signaling Deeper Distress
Washington Post (News Report)
Mortgage firm arranged stealth campaign
Associated Press (Investigative Report)
The High School Dropout's Economic Ripple Effect
Wall Street Journal (Special Report)
U.S. Stocks Up, But Unease Ripples Across Global Markets
NewsHour, PBS (News Analysis)
Cutbacks hamper FBI investigations of financial crimes
Seattle Times (News Report)
An eroding model for health insurance
Los Angeles Times (Special Report)
A financial new world order?
Christian Science Monitor (News Report)
Health care: Both candidates' plans promise radical change
McClatchy (Special Report)
Credit Rating Exec: "We Sold Our Souls to the Devil"
Mother Jones (Special Report)
The bubble keeps on deflating
International Herald Tribune (Editorial)
Bretton Woods, The Sequel?
Washington Post (Opinion)
McCain's hero Teddy Roosevelt was more socialist than Obama
Why the rich are losing their share of their wealth
Wall Street Journal (Opinion)
The faith that moves Mammo
There Is a Silver Lining
The GOP's Blame-ACORN Game
The Nation (Opinion)
News Hunt Findings
Stories reviewed for this Economy News Hunt were submitted by our hosts, members and staff, and came from a broad range of sources -- 56 different mainstream and independent publications in total.
Publications with the most reviewed stories included the
New York Times, the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, the
Economist and the Washington Post (at least six stories on the economy
were submitted from each of those sources). Among these, the Economist
rated highest, with an
average story rating of 3.8 over six stories. The New York Times and
the Washington Post were next, both with average story ratings of 3.7
(though we reviewed 18 stories from the Times, compared to only six
stories from the Post). Stories from the AP received an average rating
and those from the Wall Street Journal received 3.4.
Other mainstream publications which received a number of favorable reviews included the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, NewsHour, Reuters, the San Francisco Chronicle, Slate and USA Today. Highly rated independent publications with at least two reviewed stories included the Council on Foreign Relations, the Huffington Post, Mother Jones, ProPublica and TruthOut, among others.
The majority of stories reviewed in our News Hunt were from newspapers and online sites. Of
the many story types we reviewed, editorials, special reports and
investigative reports received the highest average ratings, at 4.0, 3.9
and 3.9, respectively. By contrast, breaking news and opinion did not
fare as well, each averaging a 3.5 rating. We find this to be a
reflection of the good judgment and positive skepticism exercised
by our community when reviewing quickly-reported stories or points of
view without factual evidence.
Overall, our community's reviews suggest that this week's coverage of the U.S. Economy was, on average, of equal quality for mainstream and independent media. While we received 116 story submissions from mainstream sources and just 22 from independent sources, the average story rating for both source types was 3.6.
Disclaimer: these ratings are preliminary, due to small sample size, and only apply to this limited investigation; they should not be viewed as an overall indicator of each publication's general work quality.
Several themes and subtopics surfaced among our top rated stories, including:
- The ripple effect of the U.S. economic crisis on the global economy (U.S. stocks up, but unease ripples across global markets, Into a slump)
- The corporate mismanagement that led to this fall's financial meltdown (Mortgage firm arranged stealth campaign, General Motors, Driven to the Brink, We Sold Our Souls to the Devil)
- The link between health care and the economy (Health care: Both candidates' plans promise radical change, An eroding model for health insurance)
Thanks to our partners and hosts
This was one of our most successful News Hunts ever, thanks to our partners at PBS Engage, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and UNR's Reynolds Journalism School -- as well as the 196 new members who joined our community last week. We were truly impressed by the depth, quality and civil tone of their reviews, and enjoyed their thoughtful participation.
We're also grateful to our tenacious hosts Marsha Iverson and Walter Cox -- as well as the many NewsTrust reviewers who helped find the best journalism on this topic. It was a pleasure to join forces with you all, and learn from your expertise and insights.
Lee Banville, NewsHour online editor, said our News Hunt helped them in their own coverage of this topic:
Jayme Swain, PBS Engage director, had this to say about our News Hunt:
The News Hunt team discovered and recommended some important stories within the broad brush of the U.S. economy that we at the NewsHour should focus on, beyond the day-to-day news of the markets and government announcements. In particular, their reviews and recommendations of a series of reports on the struggles of the automakers prompted a specific story on Tuesday’s NewsHour. We found the Hunt a source of daily ideas and suggestions, as we continue to cover this complex and unfolding story.
Donica Mensing, professor at UNR's Reynolds School of Journalism, found the experience very worthwhile, and shared some of these comments from her students:
One of the goals of Engage is to promote civic engagement, and these news hunts provide the PBS audience a way to get involved and help promote quality journalism on important civic issues.
- It's a good way to look at the news critically.
- I liked how it linked to many valuable news sources.
- It's neat because it directs you to many publications you might not normally read.
- The stories were very informative and well organized.
- It offers objectivity, which is very hard to find in the media.
- It's a great source for concerned media consumers.
- It's a well rounded approach to the news.
Walter reflected on how the economic downturn has affected his business, remarking on how the setbacks he has experienced match what he read and reviewed throughout the week:
I discovered a surprisingly broad array of sources new to me, and gained a deeper appreciation for the many journalists who still take their mission seriously. I wanted to learn more about the workings of the financial world from a broader perspective than my own experience. By reading and reviewing nearly 30 stories during the hunt, I've developed a far deeper understanding of the issues, the players, the markets, the regulations, the regulators, and what they've done--or haven't done. After seven days of focused hunting and analyzing economy news stories, the net result is similar to a week-long immersion seminar on macro- and micro-economics...subjects I have zealously avoided.
Armed with my new knowledge, I now can irritate the bejeebers out of nearly anyone in my vicinity who says anything about the economy by chiming in with relevant details. I also learned that good writing based on accurate information makes even the most challenging subject understandable, and that the NewsTrust review tools provide a solid structure for analyzing the quality of a story. Beyond that, the built-in check-and-balance tools for rating reviews and reviewers add a essential feedback that improves the credibility and reliability of NewsTrust. I am delighted to be part of this vital project.
Once again, a huge thanks goes out to our entire community, particularly our hosts Marsha and Walter, and our partners at PBS, the NewsHour and UNR: Jayme Swain, Laura Hertzfeld, Kevin Dando, Amy Baroch and Lauren Saks from the PBS Engage team; Lee Banville, editor of the Online NewsHour; and Donica Mensing, David Ryfe and all the students at the UNR Reynolds School of Journalism. Your commitment to this important cause is an inspiration to us all.
As an architect/builder, I tend to work pretty far in advance, talking to clients and planning projects that will be built 3-12 months down the road. The current economic slowdown became noticeable about two years ago, with several major projects cancelled due to concerns about the economy. Then, as the subprime lending crisis deepened, two clients called to tell me that their home equity lines of credit had been cancelled (both by Washington Mutual, which has since failed) with no explanation offered. As a result, those projects too were cancelled. Nevertheless, I stayed quite busy with smaller projects—until just a few weeks ago.
At present all building projects that can be put off until later have been deferred indefinitely. With winter approaching, I must diligently pursue every lead and every bidding opportunity to maintain my income. The building industry is always the first to be hit by an economic crisis. And often it is the last sector to improve once the economy rebounds. There is no buffer.
During the past week, as I reviewed articles for submission and review, most articles dealing with the U.S. economic crisis seemed entirely too abstract to me, perhaps because most Americans are still operating within their respective buffer zones. Unfortunately I suspect that this crisis will be deeper, and will last longer, than previous downturns. Buffers that currently provide a degree of protection from direct economic repercussions are likely to fade or disappear.
The United States is certainly the epicenter of the “2008 Global Economic Crisis,” and I look to NewsTrust to provide valuable perspective as the story unfolds.
(Laura Hertzfeld, Jayme Swain, Fabrice Florin, Lee Banville and Derek Hawkins.)
This week: The Presidential Election
Our topic this week is the U.S. Presidential Election. In the final days leading to the November 4th election, let's join forces to find the best news coverage on this historic event. How do Barack Obama and John McCain differ on key issues such as the economy, health care and foreign policy? Which publications are providing the best news and opinion to inform Americans about these differences? Led by NewsTrust host Chris Finnie, we're looking for quality journalism that goes beyond the horse race to help voters make more informed decisions next Tuesday. Please review our recommended stories -- and submit new stories -- on our Presidential Election topic page.
By Derek Hawkins, with Kaizar Campwala and Fabrice Florin.