CBS Greeted Housing Value News with Slanted Story on Housing Bubble
The so-called housing bubble has been a media fixation for five years, so with news that the median price for existing homes is down slightly from last year, it wasnât surprising for the broadcast media to jump on the story.
âIf the housing bubble hasnât burst, it sure is leaky,â anchor Katie Couric teased at the open of the September 25 âEvening News.â Later when introducing Bill Whitakerâs report on the new housing numbers, Couric promised viewers a look at âa buyerâs market.â
Yet Whitaker opened his story not with bargains for buyers but one San Francisco coupleâs trouble selling their first home.
âDana and Karen Salisbury didnât need todayâs report to know the once-lofty housing market was falling. They bought this retirement home banking on selling their house in the Bay area for $2.1 million, a reasonable price in their neighborhood,â Whitaker began.
Whitaker then pointed to a âdowntown condo boomâ that has âturned into an overbuilt, overpriced condo glutâ in the City of Angels before forecasting âa steady slump in housing prices not just here in the blazing California market, but in all price ranges, all across the country.â
At no point in his story, however, did Whitaker mention that while nationwide the median price for existing homes fell 1.7 percent, it actually rose 0.6 percent in the Western states over August 2005.
Of the September 25 evening newscasts, CBS gave the most unbalanced picture while NBC gave viewers an optimistic read, emphasizing strong home values and a buyersâ market. ABC briefly dispatched the news in a brief item read by anchor Charles Gibson.
NBC anchor Brian Williams began on a sour note, warning that âaccording to a lot of economists and analysts, the housing bubble has indeed and officially deflated.â
Of course, other economists take issue with that assessment, among them Bernard Baumohl of The Economic Outlook Group. Baumohl told Reuters that while âwe're very close to the bottom of the housing market,â he expected that âBy the first quarter of next year, we'll start to see a rebound.â In the same Reuters article, Wachovia Bank economist Mark Vitner told the news service that âthe worst of the dropsâ in housing value âare probably behind us.â
Whatâs more, contrary to Williamsâ gloomy intro, reporter Anne Thompson gave an overall upbeat picture, both for those in the market to buy and those who own already.
Explaining that the price drop resulted from âtoo many houses for too few buyers,â she went on to cite Jack Kyser, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporationâs chief economist, saying the real estate cool-off would not harm the economy.
âIt wonât be like the mid-â90s because the economy is strong,â Kyser told Thompson.
Whatâs more, concluded Thompson, while the real estate market is becoming a buyerâs market, âAnalysts say the big losersâ among owners are âspeculators who bought last year at the topâ and expected to resell for quick cash. On the other hand, she added, âfor most other homeowners,â they âshould be okay because theyâll still be able to profit from double-digit appreciation rates during the boom.â
The Business & Media Institute has covered the mediaâs five-year fixation on the housing bubble storyline. âSensationalism often sells. Weâre still looking at the third-best year in housing history,â a National Association of Realtors official told BMI in an August 24 article. âComing off of five years of strong sales, you canât sustain that forever. When things start normalizing, itâs easy to compare to the best year ever, to say the sky is dropping.â