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Free Market Project

3/5/2006 5:54:32 PM

Updated 02/24/06

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Good guy lawyers; ‘60 Minutes’ goes off track on NASCAR; and the media overestimate job losses from Katrina.

October 12, 2005

     While lawsuits over insurance claims from Katrina are heating up, The New York Times showed that some lawyers actually help limit the problem of runaway litigation. CBS showed that, while NASCAR might seem simple to some, it’s too confusing for TV news. And no matter how much the media talk about the horrible impacts of Katrina, they never seem to be accurate.

The Good
     The media love a good lawsuit story, like “Erin Brockovich,”  that paints business as evil. But the Times turned the tables on that concept with “The Tort Wars, at a Turning Point.” The October 9 story by Jonathan D. Glater detailed massive abuses that took place during the silicosis lawsuits where defense lawyers “may have just changed the rules of so-called mass tort litigation.” They did it by showing how many people also had put in similar claims during the asbestos trials. If you ever felt lawsuits were out of control, you should read this.

The Bad
     It doesn’t take much for journalists to show their bias against mainstream America. Take, for example, the October 9 edition of CBS’s “60 Minutes” that profiled NASCAR  and painted its promotions as “hucksterism” and advertisers as “not wholesome” while the product itself was portrayed as a “good ol’ boy Southern Confederate flag sport” hostile to minorities. Reporter Lesley Stahl’s piece betrayed a lack of understanding of both ordinary Americans and capitalism, but veteran racer Richard Petty helped her out on that second point.

The Ugly
     The doom-and-gloom scenario has been a Katrina staple. The storm sent media people into a frenzy of bad predictions of $4- and $5-per-gallon gas, but the predictions about unemployment were even worse. Joel Havemann of the Los Angeles Times wrote of losses of up 500,000 jobs in September. But when the dust cleared after the latest jobs report, he was off by about 465,000. The economy turned out to be moving along far better than the media had said it would be.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly tracks the best and worst media coverage of business and economics. Readers are invited to submit suggestions or news tips to Director Dan Gainor at