Can talking too much about the economy bring it down?

Kansas City StarOctober 31, 2011 

BREAKING NEWS: In the latest setback to the U.S. economy…

Oh, never mind.

Maybe you’ve been pelted enough by news, commentary and Capitol Hill press conferences about the extent of, and fixes for, our financial stress.

Maybe you wonder if 24-hour news cycles and endless Web alerts just compound the problem.

It’s a chicken-or-egg riddle — impossible to answer, but worth asking:

Are all these media sirens, eager-for-airtime pundits and doom-saying Washington partisans rightly reacting to the real hardships that grip and depress us?

Or are their columns, cable shows and blame sessions stirring such fear and anger, such hopelessness, that they only further the economic slump?

“Absolutely, there’s a correlation between the news and the response” of investors and consumers whose anxieties, in turn, keep the storyline from changing, said Marty Steffens, business and financial journalism professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.

“But let’s face it, the news is pretty spooky.”

All agree: 9.1 percent joblessness, stratospheric deficits and weakened home values demand the utmost attention.

Yet consider the early part of 2011, when a crazed shooting in Arizona and revolt in the Arab world crowded out the economic news. Distracted, our consumer confidence rose to levels not seen in 2½ years. The Dow finally returned to 12,000.

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