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Advertiser pressure and control of the news: The decline of muckraking revisited


  • Poitras, Marc
  • Sutter, Daniel


Many scholars argue that advertiser influence prevents commercial news media from reporting truthfully on harmful business practices. Yet overt evidence of advertiser influence on the news can be elusive, partly because fear of offending advertisers may lead news organizations to censor themselves. An apparent departure from self-censorship, however, is the anti-business reporting that characterized the muckraking era of the early 20th century. We therefore examine muckraking's demise as a case study of potential advertiser influence. As alternative hypotheses of muckraking's decline, our tests seek to distinguish between an advertising boycott and a fall in reader demand for muckraking content. The tests involve comparing market performances of muckraking and non-muckraking magazines, and estimating the determinants of advertising in muckraking magazines. We generally find no evidence to support the hypothesis of an advertising boycott.

Suggested Citation

  • Poitras, Marc & Sutter, Daniel, 2009. "Advertiser pressure and control of the news: The decline of muckraking revisited," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 944-958, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:72:y:2009:i:3:p:944-958

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Blasco, Andrea & Sobbrio, Francesco, 2012. "Competition and commercial media bias," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 434-447.
    2. Blasco, Andrea & Pin, Paolo & Sobbrio, Francesco, 2016. "Paying positive to go negative: Advertisers׳ competition and media reports," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 243-261.
    3. Pannicke, Julia, 2015. "Media bias in women's magazines: Do advertisements influence editorial content?," Ilmenau Economics Discussion Papers 99, Ilmenau University of Technology, Institute of Economics.


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