Talk of recession grows 600 per cent in nation’s media

As the Australian economy falls to its slowest rate of growth in a decade, use of the word ‘recession’ in media has spiked, increasing 610 per cent over the past year.

Streem looked into economic reporting trends ahead of the release of national GDP figures on Wednesday that showed an annual growth rate of 1.4 per cent, the lowest since 2009.

The analysis captured all stories about the Australian economy in major metropolitan and national newspapers and websites over the past 13 months, and then looked at the frequency of various subtopics.

In August 2018, the word ‘recession’ was used in 158 of 5633 stories (2.8 per cent) published that month about the economy.

Last month, by contrast, ‘recession’ was mentioned in 1122 of 7334 stories, a rate of 15.3 per cent.

How the media portrays economic news can have considerable impact. Politicians and economists are alert to the danger of “talking down the economy”, the idea that negative commentary can change people’s spending patterns and further reduce economic growth.

Further analysis of last year’s reporting showed the use of positive adjectives like ‘strong’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘grew’ to describe factors in the economy was down 15 per cent year on year, while the prevalence of negative terms such as ‘weak’, ‘negative’ or ‘fell’ had increased 167 per cent.

As economists ponder why Australians aren’t spending, the data gives some clue: media use of the term “trade war” is five times what it was a year ago, with China now mentioned in nearly half (43%) of stories about the Australian economy.

Meanwhile a focus on “cost of living” has all but disappeared from economic reporting in the months after the federal election.

Use of the term has fallen 92 per cent since it peaked in April and May during the campaign.

Mentions of recession included warnings about the potential Australia could fall into one, the “per capita” recession Australia is already experiencing, or references to Australia’s last recession in 1990-91, when Paul Keating was the nation’s treasurer.

Paul Keating was treasurer the last time Australia endured a recession

Full data: Table: How coverage of the Australian economy has changed

Tags :