On Friday it was announced that General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt would be the chair of the White House’s Council on Competitiveness and Jobs. Given the fanfare of the announcement (Obama toured a GE plant with Immelt as part of the official rollout), it was considered big news. But let’s compare two nightly news broadcasts.
The first program mentioned that between 2007-2009 GE laid off 21,000 U.S. workers and closed 20 factories. The report quoted critic Scott Paul of the business-labor partnership Alliance for American Manufacturing. And it also mentioned the issue of conflicts of interest: GE has $3 billion in government contracts, including manufacturing engines for a fighter jet Secretary of Defense of Robert Gates has deemed a “wasteful boondoggle.”
On another broadcast, the announcement was framed as “part of the White House’s shift in focus now that the economy is in recovery.” The choice of Immelt was “more evidence the president is trying to mend fences with the business community,” with the correspondent adding that “the president said companies like GE are key to his export strategy, which he says will create jobs in the U.S.” The only criticism was a passing remark that “some labor leaders were skeptical today, saying that GE has cut jobs and sent them overseas.”
The first report was done by ABC‘s Jake Tapper, and aired on World News. The latter report aired on NBC Nightly News, owned by General Electric. As anchor Brian Williams put it, the show was “duty bound to remind you GE is the parent company of NBC Universal.” That would have been pretty obvious to anyone who watched both broadcasts.