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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A tale of two newspapers

I noticed something yesterday that highlights the differences between the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. A state jobs report was released, and the headlines couldn't be more different:

Star Tribune: Minority of jobs require college, studies find
Pioneer Press: Now hiring: state job openings rise

The data is mainly the same in the two stories, but the spin certainly isn't. In particular, I find the Pioneer Press headline almost laughable, because the data indicates that while job openings are on the rise, it still means that there are two unemployed workers for every job opening, instead of the previous ratio of three to one. A "Now hiring" headline may have been appropriate five years ago, when there were more jobs than workers and employers were struggling to fill positions, but it is out of place today. Economic indicators are still very mixed. The recent national jobs report, showing only 32,000 jobs created in the country in July instead of expectations of over 200,000 is only one example.

This reminds me of a factoid I recently heard. In 1934, the growth rate was 7.7% in the country. Sounds great, right? Of course, this was in the midst of the Great Depression, and this large growth rate couldn't make up for the horrendous year before. In a similar vein, it looks like the Pioneer Press is seeing sees a tree but not the forest.

I have known people at the Pioneer Press, and the picture they have painted on the inside is not pretty: budget cutting, a surrender in the fight with the Star Tribune over which paper is the foremost regional paper, fewer in-depth investigative stories, and unhappy staff. Perhaps objectivity and analysis are being thrown by the wayside in a quest for readership.

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