TV journos don’t always get the economy. On last night’s Seven News in Sydney we had a very good example of why you shouldn’t send TV reporters to look at stories about the economy. Seven reporter, Damian Smith said the 0.8% rise in retail sales was evidence that the Rudd Government’s stimulus package hadn’t worked.

Well, the 0.8% growth in retail sales was referring to the December quarter. That’s October, November and December. And if the reporter and his Sydney producers had had a memory they might have recalled that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (who produced the quarterly figures and cautioned against reading too much into them) had reported two weeks ago that seasonally adjusted, retail sales in December had risen 3.8%. The ABS said the December stimulus had made accurate figures (especially on a trend basis ) hard to work out.

The trend estimate of turnover for the Australian Retail series increased by 0.3% in the December quarter 2008 in volume terms.

The 1.8% increase in the December quarter 2008 seasonally adjusted estimate in current price terms resulted from a 0.8% increase in volumes and a 1.0% increase in prices.

And the warning from the ABS…

The trend series in this publication should be interpreted with caution as, in addition to the December quarter impact, the underlying behaviour in retail activity may have been impacted by the Federal Government Economic Security Strategy Package implemented in December 2008. The stimulus package was implemented in a period when other influences associated with global economic conditions may also have been impacting on Retail trade.

And this is what the ABS reported on February 4, while issuing the same warning about the impact of the stimulus package on the trend series.

The seasonally adjusted estimate increased by 3.8% in December 2008. This follows increases of 0.4% in November and 1.0% in October 2008. It should be noted that the full retail sample was reinstated from November 2008. December 2008 is the largest monthly seasonally adjusted percentage increase since August 2000 following the introduction of the GST.

So, we have Damo (and it must be said a number of newspaper reporters) looking at the volume growth in retail sales over three months and ignoring what happened in December, when the stimulus package started. — Glenn Dyer

A reporter’s elegy for his dying paper. When I don’t take the LA Times, I feel guilty. I worked there for eight years. I still contribute pieces regularly. It’s my hometown paper. But then I get the paper, read it, and start the day angry. There’s nothing in the paper that enrages me. The articles are professionally done. No, my rage is from what I don’t see, all the stories that aren’t there any longer. This is the daily tragedy of all the layoffs and buy-outs and departures at US newspapers and magazines. — The New Republic

They kill journalists, don’t they? News is scarce in Somalia because journalism is a deadly profession. Organizations such as Reporters Sans Frontières and the Committee To Protect Journalists have consistently highlighted the situation there. Since 2007, 12 journalists have been killed in Somalia. So far this year, two journalists have been gunned down. It is therefore most unsettling, to say the least, when a special representative of the secretary-general of the United Nations for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, speaks about the work of Somali journalists in highly derogatory, indeed inflammatory terms. — Slate

James Murdoch to meet a … robot. News International boss James Murdoch is to get a visit from a very unlikely VIP — one of the Honda Asimo robots. The robot model, which last year conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, will swing by the Wapping plant on Monday, 23 February. — The Guardian

Five major U.S newspapers to share content. A group of five major newspapers in New York and New Jersey are the latest to forge a content-sharing agreement that has already seen the trading of sports and news stories between several of the participants. The new group includes: The Star-Ledger of Newark, NJ; The Record of Hackensack, NJ; The Times Union in Albany, NY; The Buffalo (NY) News; and The Daily News of New York, according to sources and a preliminary press release. — Editor & Publisher

Plans finalised to shut down last US newspapers. Here’s a little message for self-important douchesacks from Washington Post whiner Richard Cohen to this guy and his embarrassing YouTube performance: Shut up. There is nothing particularly interesting or important about that clump of pulp tossed in the neighbor’s wet driveway at 2:21am. Stop this fetishistic weeping over a long-expected technological change in news delivery. Do you goddamned people realise you’re the ONLY ONES bemoaning a switch from inefficient, untimely dissemination of information? — Wonkette

The body as billboard: your ad here. For shaving their noggins and displaying the ad copy for two weeks in November, participants in a marketing campaign received either a round-trip ticket to New Zealand (worth about $1,200) or $777 in cash. The participants were, in marketing parlance, ideal brand ambassadors: when co-workers or strangers behind them in the grocery store line asked about New Zealand, they could speak enthusiastically right off the top of their heads — so to speak. — The New York Times

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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