Fox News’s unemployment chart: Better graphics?

Screen grab of chart showing unemployment rate under President Obama. (Fox News)

Check out the Fox News chart above. Looks pretty clean and sweet, no? The numbers are accurate, it’s got a source line, plenty of detail, etc. So what could possibly be wrong with it?

As Media Matters for America notes,. pull back from the screen and focus only on the trend line, not on the numbers. See something off? As Media Matters’ Zachary Pleat writes, “the 8.6 percent unemployment rate in November looks higher than March’s 8.8 percent rate, and about the same as the 9 percent unemployment rate in October.” Even though things are improving just slightly, the chart’s message is that they’re not.

Everything we know about computer-generated graphics tells us that a double-jointed chart like this doesn’t just self-generate. That is, to get a trend line to defy the numbers attached to it has to require effort and enterprise. And effort and enterprise in the area of TV graphics puts a smile on the face of Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

Earlier this year, when the network was celebrating its 15-year anniversary, the Associated Press asked Ailes why Fox had prevailed in the ratings for so long. Ailes answered:

“The consistency of our product,” Ailes sums up matter-of-factly. “I think we do better television than the other guys, and no matter how we do it, they don’t seem to catch up. We seem to out-invent them and think ahead of them, and have better story ideas, better graphics, better on-air talent. We just are better television producers.”

(Bolded text added to highlight the Fox News specialty responsible for a misleading graph on unemployment trends.)

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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