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