Monday, May 16, 2005

What Media Bias?

Via Purposeful Dreamer, this link to a December 2004 study by professors Timothy Groseclose(UCLA) and Jeff Milyo (University of Missouri) attempts to discern and quantify political bias in journalism. Hosted at UCLA's political science department web site, no less. Not exactly the definition of a conservative school except when comparing it with Berkeley, I guess. Here's an interesting conclusion:
At least four broad empirical regularities emerge from our results. In this section we document the regularities and analyze their significance for some theories about the industrial organization of the news industry.

First, we find a systematic tendency for the
U.S. media outlets to slant the news to the left. As mentioned earlier, this is inconsistent with basic spatial models of firm location such as Harold Hotelling’s (1929) and others. In such models the median firm locates at the ideal location of the median consumer, which our results clearly do not support.

Another item from the discussion section suggests that liberals may be barking up the wrong tree when they make the claim that conservative ownership of news media results in a conservative slant to the news:

A third empirical regularity involves the question whether reporters will be faithful agents of the owners of the firms for which they work. That is, will the slant of their news stories reflect their own ideological preferences or the firm’s owners? The conventional wisdom, at least among left-wing commentators, is that the latter is true. For instance, Eric Alterman (2003) entitles a chapter of his book “You’re Only as Liberal as the Man Who Owns You.” A weaker assertion is that the particular news outlet will be a faithful agent of the firm that owns it. However, our results provide some weak evidence that this is not true. For instance, although Time magazine and CNN’s Newsnight are owned by the same firm (Time Warner), their ADA scores differ substantially, by 9.4 points. Further, almost half of the other outlets have scores between the scores of Newsnight and Time Magazine.

By professors' analysis, The Wall Stree Journal news section, the CBS Evening News, and the New York Times news section were the most liberal, Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume and the Washington Times were the most conservative. It was also interesting to note that the more liberal outlets were more liberal than the two conservative ones were conservative. I interpret that as meaning Fox News and the Washington Times were both closer to the center than the most liberal outlets (NYT, etc. ).

A surprise result is that a favorite conservative whipping boy, NPR, turns out to be a good deal less liberal than portrayed in the conservative press (although still left of center).

I don't have the background in statistics and in designing studies to be able to assert this study is definitive, but it sure is interesting....

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