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Persistent Media Bias

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  • Baron, David P.

    (Stanford U)

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    Abstract

    The news media plays an essential role in society, but surveys indicate that the public views the media as biased. This paper presents a theory of media bias that originates with private information obtained by journalists through their investigations and persists despite profit-maximizing news organizations and rivalry from other news organizations. Bias has two effects on the demand for news. First, rational individuals are more skeptical of potentially biased news and thus rely less on it in their decision-making. Second, bias makes certain stories more likely than others. This paper presents a supply-side theory in which bias originates with journalists who have career interests and are willing to sacrifice current wages for future opportunities. News organizations can control bias by restricting the discretion allowed to journalists, but granting discretion and tolerating bias can increase profits. The skepticism of individuals reduces demand and leads the news organization to set a lower price for its publication the greater is the bias it tolerates. Lower quality news thus commands a lower price. Bias is not driven from the market by a rival news organization nor by a news organization with an opposing bias. Moreover, bias can be greater with competition than with a monopoly news organization. If individuals collectively choose regulation in place of their individual decision-making, bias increases the expected stringency of regulation.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Stanford University, Graduate School of Business in its series Research Papers with number 1845r.

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    Date of creation: Aug 2004
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    Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:1845r

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    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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    1. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Media Bias," NBER Working Papers 9295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Puglisi Riccardo, 2011. "Being The New York Times: the Political Behaviour of a Newspaper," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-34, April.
    3. Scott Stern, 1999. "Do Scientists Pay to Be Scientists?," NBER Working Papers 7410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Bovitz, Gregory L & Druckman, James N & Lupia, Arthur, 2002. " When Can a News Organization Lead Public Opinion? Ideology versus Market Forces in Decisions to Make News," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 113(1-2), pages 127-55, October.
    5. Jeffrey Milyo & Tim Groseclose, 2005. "A Measure of Media Bias," Working Papers 0501, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 25 Aug 2005.
    6. David P. Baron, 2005. "Competing for the Public Through the News Media," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(2), pages 339-376, 06.
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    Cited by:
    1. Besley, Timothy J. & Prat, Andrea, 2002. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," CEPR Discussion Papers 3132, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Victor Chernozhukov & Muhamet Yildiz, 2007. "Learning and Disagreement in an Uncertain World," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 48, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
    3. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2005. "The Market for News," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1031-1053, September.
    4. Elena Panova, 2009. "Confirmatory News," Cahiers de recherche 0912, CIRPEE.
    5. DellaVigna, Stefano & Kaplan, Ethan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," Seminar Papers 748, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
    6. Tim Groseclose & Jeffrey Milyo, 2005. "A Measure of Media Bias," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1191-1237, November.
    7. Giacomo Corneo, 2005. "Media Capture in a Democracy: The Role of Wealth Concentration," CESifo Working Paper Series 1402, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Dan Bernhardt & Stefan Krasa & Mattias Polborn, 2006. "Political Polarization and the Electoral Effects of Media Bias," CESifo Working Paper Series 1798, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Matthew Ellman & Fabrizio Germano, 2004. "What Do the Papers Sell?," Working Papers 149, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    10. Riccardo Ferretti & Francesco Pattarin, 2008. "Is public information really public? The role of newspapers," Centro Studi di Banca e Finanza (CEFIN) (Center for Studies in Banking and Finance) 08013, Universita di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Facoltà di Economia "Marco Biagi".

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