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   The Sun Shows No Nose for News

Buried Treasure:

The Sun Shows No Nose for News

by Alice Cherbonnier

The Sun recently deep-sixed two big stories by rolling them into one four-and-a-half-inch newsbrief and burying it on page 18C of the combined Sports and Business section on Saturday, January 4. We depict it here in all its naked glory.

Story #1: The Bush II administration, like the Bush I administration, is claiming it can’t afford to keep track of corporate mass layoffs. They’re claiming it costs the government about $6 million a year to make these monthly reports. That’s baloney. They just want to keep bad news out of the public eye. But that’s what politicians want to do. And that’s why we have a “free press”—to tell the people the unvarnished truth, hurt though it might. At least, that’s supposed to be why we have a “free press,” but in actuality our nation’s media are fawning lapdogs looking to appease and please, to maximize profits and minimize risk.

Story #2: For God’s sake! 240,000 people lost jobs at 2,150 major US companies in the month of November. This represents a lost annual payroll of upwards of $9 billion, with many further public costs for unemployment, lost contributions to Social Security and Medicare, etc. etc. Many thousands more folks at smaller companies surely walked the plank in November as well. This is a human tragedy of epic proportions. The Sun should have put this information where it really belongs: on page one of the news section. The fact that it didn’t is another story that is even more tragic.

ALERT! Postscript (1/11/03):
Exactly one week later, on Sat., Jan. 11, The Sun reported in a FRONT PAGE story, "U.S. jobs lost as economy falters," by business writer Bill Atkinson. In it, we learn that "Employers....slashed payrolls by 101,000 workers" in December.....In November, 88,000 jobs were abolished...."

Now, how does this information, distressing though it may be, square with what we learned in the buried article a week before, which gave the number of jobs eliminated in November as 240,000? Pretty big difference!

Well, we had to put on our thinking caps about this one! It appears that the numbers in the Jan. 11 story came from the US Labor Department as part of its monthly UNEMPLOYMENT report. These are, therefore, the number of folks who have applied for unemployment benefits. The figures in the Jan. 4 report are ANNOUNCED LAYOFFS by major corporations. Many of the people who know their jobs are being eliminated were still on the payroll at that time, but know they'll be losing their jobs sometime soon. Since they haven't therefore applied for unemployment benefits, they're still employed for purposes of the Sun's front page story.

Now we have three more questions: Shouldn't the public be given prominent notice of forecasts that will be happening a few weeks or months down the road? And why would the Sun give such huge prominence to weather predictions, but bury near-certain dire predictions about what's happening in our economy?

And why would the Bush administration countenance the costs of reporting the unemployment figures, but not the cost of tabulating announced mass layoffs? Surely the latter is a far cheaper thing to keep track of than the former.

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This story was published on January 8, 2003.
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