Friday, January 06, 2006

Same Story, Different Spins - SpinDecember retail sales figures have been released. Same-store sales were up 3.5%. On-line sales were up 25%. The Detroit Free Press is calling this a "mixed" finish, while the Washington Post considers it a strong finish. So who is right?

The Detroit Free Press offers the article Retailers end year mixed but hopeful. The DFP concentrates on the "poor" showing by Wal-Mart. Same store sales were up 2.2% for the largest retailer. We don't find out about the 3.5% figure until half-way through the piece, and we don't get the on-line figures until the very end. Gloom and Doom.

The Washington Post looks at the same figures and concludes that Strong Finish in December Lifts Holiday Retail Sales.
The holiday shopping season wrapped up with a strong finish as department stores posted solid December sales gains yesterday
Not only are we treated to the 3.5% figure, but after we are reminded of the surge in oil prices, the conclusion drawn is that this was a good outcome for retail. Furthermore, the 3.5% figure is "same store sales." Overall retail spending was up 4.4% (A figure that apparently didn't make it all the way to the Detroit.)

This is a relatively straight-forward piece of reporting on economic news. The Washington Post had no trouble getting positive comments from industry group leaders. Yet the Detroit Free Press is still painting a picture of gloomy economy. (If you read the details they are failing, but if you skim the paper and read only the first few paragraphs of their story you would get a very different picture.)

I am prepared to admit that the economy in Detroit and Michigan generally sucks. The "Big 3" aren't so big anymore. Or as Forbes says:
The strangest thing about the crisis in the American auto industry is this: Nobody outside of Detroit seems to care.
Strip out fleet sales - look only at retail - and the big three's numbers don't look so good. Add to that the fact that the Germans own Chrysler, the "foreign" manufacturers all have factories in the South and West and no one is going to come to Detroit's aid this time around. Part of Detroit's problem lies with management. Detroit did not stand behind cars that had problems, and customers felt they had been screwed when problems occurred. Part of the problem rests with unions that refuse to admit there is such a thing as competition.
The United Auto Workers union and its members have an image problem, too. Sure, in recent years GM and Ford have made progress in working with unions and in achieving improvements in quality. However, for far too long UAW workers laughed at complaints about quality, and the union did nothing to punish workers who failed to perform.
As a result of all of this (and more) Detroit is in a bad way economically.

None if this justifies the smear job that the Detroit Free Press is trying to do on the national economy. Is it hard to guess their motivation? Hardly. A thriving national economy is good politically for President Bush and the Republican Party. The Detroit Free Press editorial staff can't stand anything that would help the Republicans. So while they don't lie outright, they shade the truth as much as they can. A perfect example of Democratic propaganda coming out of the MsM. If they can't get the simple stories right, why should anyone believe them when they report on the complicated issues facing this country? And to realize just how extreme the DFP is being, consider that I am casting the WaPo in the role of "fair and balanced news reporting outlet." Amazing.

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