On www.money.cnn.com, the headline reads: Worst Holiday Shopping Season Since '70
Now, to read just the headline, you would think CNN is saying that retailers sold about as much in 2008 as they did thirty-eight years ago in 1970, which would have been an unmitigated disaster.
Fortunately, if you read the article, you'd discover that they really meant holiday retail sales were down around four percent from last years holiday retail sales, which is the worse year-to-year decline since 1970.
In terms of actual dollars, retailers actually sold over three times as much in 2008 as they did in 1970.
Considering the state of the economy, that year-to-year sales were down no more than four percent would actually be pretty good news if it weren't for the massive markdowns retailers took to try and maintain their revenue.
Still a four per-cent decline isn't news that the sky is falling. In fact, retail sales beat in 2008 beat some projections and some retailers like amazon.com reported their best Christmas sales ever.
A big part of any recession is the pessimism people feel about the state of the economy which curbs spending. With that in mind, one would hope that a responsible news agency would forgo incendiary headlines in favor of more factual ones so not to inflate people's fears.
This doesn't seem to be the case over at CNN.com.
You can read the article here: http://money.cnn.com/2008/12/30/news/economy/holiday_shopping.reut/index.htm
The lesson here may be that if one really wants to understand the news they have to go a good bit beyond the headlines, and even then it's best not to trust just one source for your news. The downside is that it's actually a lot of work to keep yourself informed.