Report

Covering the Great Recession

  • October 05, 2009

The gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression has been covered in the media largely from the top down, told primarily from the perspective of the Obama Administration and big business, and reflected the voices and ideas of people in institutions more than those of everyday Americans, according to a new study by Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ).

Citizens may be the primary victims of the downturn, but they have not been not the primary actors in the media depiction of it.

A PEJ content analysis of media coverage of the economy during the first half of 2008 also found that the mainstream press focused on a relatively small number of major story lines, mostly generating from two cities, the country's political and financial capitals.

A companion analysis of a broader array of media using new “meme tracker” technology developed at Cornell University finds that phrases and ideas that reverberated most in the coverage came early on, mostly from government, particularly from the president and the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and that few Republicans in Congress articulated any memes that got much traction.

As the story moved away from Washington—and the news about the economy seemed to improve—the amount of coverage of the economy also dropped off substantially.

These are a few of the findings from the comprehensive study of media coverage of the economy since Obama took office. 

Read the full report Covering the Great Recession on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.