Not even two months ago, the media, Democrats, and liberals everywhere spoke with glee about Wisconsin being ranked 49th in six month economic forecast from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve bank.
But in the matter of just two months, the economic forecast for Wisconsin has taken a stunning trajectory up.
First, the April numbers (released at the end of May) that were the topic of headlines and press releases were revised upward to rank Wisconsin at 40th.
Then, the May numbers (released in June) saw Wisconsin jump to 20th.
And with new numbers out today for June, Wisconsin is now ranked 5th in new rankings among states on their six month economic outlook. For those keeping track, that's 40th, to 20th, to 5th in just a couple months.
And in another leading economic indicator, the coincidence index, Wisconsin ranks 2nd.
Those banking on Wisconsin’s economy tanking in hopes it might cost Gov. Scott Walker his re-election are not going to like the latest numbers from the Philly Fed.
And what of the state’s largest newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel?
Nothing on Tuesday. Nothing on Wednesday. Nothing today.
That’s right. The same paper that splashed reports from the same source across the front page when the economic outlook was dim, simply ignored this positive news.
Flat out did not report the news.
I’m not alone in wondering how the state’s largest newspaper could play up the release of data month after month, and then—when the data puts the Wisconsin economy in a good light—completely ignores the story.
A reader emailed Journal Sentinel Managing Editor George Stanley and others at the Journal Sentinel asking them to explain themselves.
Here is the unbelievable response he received.
From: Chuck Melvin [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 4:35 PM
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; Marty Kaiser; David Haynes; email@example.com; George Stanley; John Schmid
Subject: Fwd: Journal Sentinel Slow To Report Good Wisconsin Economic News...again!
Dear Mr. xx
Thanks so much for the feedback, which is appreciated. I'm responding on behalf of my colleagues because I coordinate our coverage of the economy.
I apologize for the length of this email, but I hope you'll read through it because it explains how hard we work to deliver the fairest, most accurate coverage possible.
Since reporting on the Philly Fed's rankings in early June, we have determined - with input from the governor's staff as well as state agency experts and independent economists - that the rankings' volatility diminishes their value. The monthly index, for instance, gives great weight to each state's monthly employment report, which is based on a small sample size with a margin of error that is sometimes greater than the number of jobs the state gains or loses in that month.
We have reported that the Philly Fed rankings are squishy, in each story we've written about them. Regardless, we decided that because we had played the June story on the cover of the paper, we followed with a story about the next month's rankings - which were sharply better for Wisconsin - and used that on Page 1A as well. The jump in the rankings, however, was another clue to the volatility of the numbers - not a sign that the state had, over the course of a single month, suddenly become either a leader or a trailer. And we also noted that the previous month's rankings had been revised sharply, reinforcing their questionable nature.
So we pointed out the flaws in the data, and we then came to the conclusion that the Philly Fed rankings were too unreliable to be reported on a monthly basis. After one report on the rankings that could be viewed as negative for Wisconsin and another that could be viewed as positive, we decided it was a disservice to continue reporting this as if it meant more than it does.
We are well aware of how politically sensitive, and even emotional, any story on job creation or the economy can be. We have done many, many stories about the state's economy, and suggesting that there is some political bias in them, in any direction, is simply not borne out by the facts. We keep our economic reporting politically impartial and factual to the best of our ability. (The state workforce agency, in fact, just today sent out a notice highlighting our story on the national growth in construction jobs, pointing out Eau Claire's prominence in the report.)
Again, thanks for your comments, and please feel free to keep in touch.
Chuck Melvin | Assistant Managing Editor/Business
So after putting the Philly Fed story on the front page of the newspaper two months in a row, their previously-held concerns over the accuracy of the data has moved them to just ignore the Philadelphia Fed Story altogether.
We are supposed to believe that this month's decision just coincidentally happened when the data shows that the outlook for Wisconsin’s economy is among the best in the nation.
Dead tree fail.
But they'll dismiss these concerns as merely emotional. As emotional as say, deciding whether or not to subscribe?