Thursday 11 March 2010

Media bias

Aren't blogs terrible - just echo chambers where folks find news that fits their ideological slant rather than unbiased opinion.

Turns out that the mainstream media's no better. Gentzgow and Shapiro find that ideological language used in newspapers (death tax vs estate tax, for example) responds directly in a profit-maximizing way to the partisan makeup of the paper's local readership.
In this paper, we develop and estimate a new measure of slant that compares the use of partisan language in newspapers with that of Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Our measure is computable with a minimum of subjective input, is related to readers’ subjective ratings of newspaper slant, and is available for newspapers representing over 70 percent of the daily circulation in the United States.

Combining our measure with zip code-level circulation data, we show that consumer demand responds strongly to the fit between a newspaper’s slant and the ideology of potential readers, implying an economic incentive for newspapers to tailor their slant to the ideological predispositions of consumers. We document such an effect and show that variation in consumer preferences accounts for roughly one-fifth of the variation in measured slant in our sample.

By contrast, we find much less evidence for a role of newspaper owners in determining slant.
So, stop pointing fingers at evil Rupert Murdoch or Ted Turner and look in the mirror. It's far more likely that YOU'RE the one to blame. Maybe you and I can self-deceive into thinking we only want (provide) unbiased information, and that we're of the enlightened few who really are truth-seekers. But it's bloody hard work. Heck, even our preferred choice of experts seems driven by our priors.

It's impossibly unlikely that enough folks ever would become truth-seekers that media bias will go away: newspapers have too high of fixed costs ever to cater solely to truth-seekers. Blogs may well be your only hope, contra the usual story. So long as you're a truth seeker. Go read some Overcoming Bias and repent. In the meantime, try to cultivate a shame function that's more strongly increasing in being accused of motivated reasoning than of disloyalty.

No comments:

Post a Comment