Economic News Embargoes Should Apply to All

The decline of business journalism has almost never stopped. Now it's to the point where most of the press, in the interest of propping up Dear Leader, spent this year's entire first quarter regaling us about our supposedly strengthening economic recovery. Horse manure; we have just learned that 2012 growth is expected to come in at perhaps half of that seen in 1985.

Pre-embargo establishment press access should have ended years ago.

It's no longer necessary. Market participants and the non-elites now have immediate access to information upon its release, and usually have plenty of time to process its essence before the 9:30 a.m. opening bell. (If I were in charge, I'd move the embargo times for a few of the key reports back by 30 minutes to allow for more complete digestion.)

Far more important, the Associated Press (aka the Administration's Press), the other wire services, the major newspapers, and the rest of the select outfits which currently have pre-embargo access shouldn't have it. They should have to compete for news consumers' attention and eyeballs on the same terms as everyone else in New and Old Media. If they're really as great as they say they are in analyzing and interpreting information, they shouldn't need the head start. But they're not, and the less deluded among them know it. All too often they are exclusively narrative framers.

After using their pre-embargo windows to get an (often incomplete) grasp of the reports involved, their next enterprise almost inevitably seems to be to figure out how they'll spin it. To name just two recent AP examples seen during the course of  separate individual business days, a declining March consumer confidence report devolved from "falls" to "rosy," and bad news about April housing starts was flushed down the memory hole while good news about building permits got the full-trumpet treatment.

I contend that this kind of "reporting" would have a tough time surviving if it operated from the same starting line as everyone else. One or both of two things would then happen:

  • New Media business and economic commentators would soon become the dominant go-to places for people who want accurate and objective information accompanied by insightful analysis.
  • In response, the establishment press would start putting genuinely knowledgeable Bizzies on the business beat, or risk irrelevance.

It's long past time we find out.