ABC, CBS, NBC focus on city’s recovery 6-1 over fiscal problems.
A year ago, President Barack
Obama derided Mitt Romney for admitting he would let Detroit car companies go bankrupt. He told supporters he
wouldn’t do that. “I refuse to turn my back on communities like this. I was
betting on the American worker,” Obama said during a July campaign speech in Ohio. In reality, the president helped two auto firms file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in exchange for
$80 billion from taxpayers.
That didn’t help the Motor City. One year later, Detroit is batting in court to become the largest American
city to file for bankruptcy. The last major city to go through a bankruptcy
scare was New York
City – nearly
40 years ago.
Despite this, ABC, CBS and NBC
have been painting a rosy picture of the dismal city for the past year –
covering positive economic news 6 times more than negative for the beleaguered
city (12 stories to 2). Propagandizing about the “booming” auto industry and
delivering cheery stories of individuals doing good things for Detroit, while
only mentioning twice the fact that the city is about to declare bankruptcy.
The state even had to bring in its own “emergency manager” to financially
manage the city that’s $20 billion in debt, since it seems its
own corrupt politicians were only adding to the problem.
Only when the city finally made
its push for bankruptcy protection did the broadcast networks admit how bad
things were. They just ignored
high taxes and 50 years of Democratic rule.
On March 1, 2013, CBS and NBC bemoaned the possibility of the city’s
finances being taken over by a government-appointed state controller. NBC even
brought race into the equation. On NBC “Nightly News,” Brian Williams lamented
the “sad update out of Detroit
tonight.” The anchor went on to say the possibility of bringing in an emergency
manager was ”controversial because, if it happens, it will mean almost half of
the African-American population in Michigan will then live under places where
local funding is controlled by the state government.” The segment directly
following was on the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act of
1965,” that NBC called the “most important civil rights law of the modern
On CBS “Evening News with Scott
Pelley,” Pelley praised GM, Chrysler, and Ford’s increases in sales in three
different reports, hyping that Detroit was “in high gear” last September.
In one year, NBC “Nightly News”
highlighted Detroit three times as a city that was “Making a
Difference.” NBC also hyped Detroit’s
“Big Three” auto manufacturers as their sales rose this year on two news
reports like CBS, while also conveniently ignoring the months where sales were
The city may be going bankrupt,
but ABC’s Jan. 4, 2013, “World News with Diane Sawyer” declared Detroit was a “hot spot” for the economy and job growth. ABC
even picked the city as its first choice of where to search out of all the
cities in America, if you were looking for a job. The current Detroit unemployment
rate is 16.3 percent, more than double the national average.
That was a typical exclusion
since the networks have skipped the very real problems Detroit is facing. The city has had a laundry
list of problems for years, from a lack of ambulances (10 out of 38 are
functional), close to an hour for police to respond to emergency calls,
80-year-old fire stations, a dwindling number of parks, and close to 80,000
abandoned houses, in which 80 percent of the city’s arsons occur. And that’s
just the infrastructure, not to mention the city having a five-times-higher
crime rate than the national average and nearly half of its residents being functionally
Those facts wouldn’t fit into
the narrative of a city that a widely played Super Bowl commercial glorified
and Fodor Travel Magazine hailed recently as
a prime tourist destination .
While the networks clung to the
once-great city’s glory days, they ignored the harsh realities of the past 40
years. So while the networks propose that all the failing city needs is more
government money, the record shows otherwise.
The Business and Media Institute
analyzed all of the mentions of “Detroit” on the evening news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC
based on a Nexis search from July 1, 2012-July 9, 2013.