You couldn't pay me to go to journalism school, but I imagine they spend considerable time talking about the importance of headlines. Most readers, myself included, simply don't read much past the headline unless they have a personal interest in a story... or are stuck in a doctor's office. So, often, the headline is the story or, at least, the story the news outfit wants you to take away.
So, I was struck today to see different news agencies, within minutes of each other, reporting very conflicting news on the same set of facts. First the AP headline
October durable goods orders fell 0.7 percent
Now, check out the Reuters headline
for the very same report:
Durable goods orders ex-transportation up in October
Of course, the Reuters headline is no doubt completely true, but how is excluding a major sector of the economy remotely helpful to readers? Is Reuters now just going to report the bits of the news it likes and ignore the inconvenient bits. It reminds me of the classic Marion Barry line
addressing rampant crime in DC:
Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
Reuters continues its spin
on the economic report in its opening graphs:
New orders for a range of long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods unexpectedly rose in October, but sharp downward revisions to the prior month's data and weak spending plans by businesses suggested manufacturing was taking a breather.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday durable goods orders excluding transportation rose 0.7 percent after a downwardly revised 0.6 percent increase in September. Economists had forecast this category unchanged from the previously reported 1.8 percent rise.
But weak demand for transportation equipment saw overall orders falling 0.7 percent after declining 1.5 percent in September. Economists had forecast overall orders dropping 1.0 percent last month.
First, two months of declining output is "taking a breather?" Sounds more like taking a punch. Jumping off from its headline, Reuters reports that orders for a "range" of goods unexpectedly rose and they proceed to report economic numbers while obscuring at least three bad bits of news:
- September's numbers were revised sharply downward
- The downward revisions were much larger than economists expected, and
- October's drop-off was much larger than economists expected.
Contrast Reuters' 'rose-colored' glasses take with the AP's
Business orders for long-lasting manufactured goods fell for a second straight month in October. While much of the weakness came from a big drop in demand for commercial aircraft, a key category that tracks business investment spending fell by the largest amount since January.
The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that orders for durable goods fell 0.7 percent following a September decline of 1.5 percent. Orders for core capital goods, considered a good proxy for business investment spending, dropped 1.8 percent, the biggest decline since a 4.8 percent fall in January.
Someone needs to tell Reuters, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts."