Media scrutiny and the quality of public officials
I investigate whether attempts by the media to determine a candidate's fitness for office lowers the average quality of public officials, what I call the media scrutiny paradox. Media scrutiny imperfectly signals heterogeneous candidates' type, but imposes privacy costs and reputational costs on politicians. The quality of office holders falls if the selection effect is adverse and outweighs the screening effect. A low quality information signal, which could result if the media focus on irrelevant aspects of behavior, makes the screening effect small and the media paradox more likely to hold. Individuals of good character might invest more in their reputation and have more at stake from being (falsely) identified as a rapscallion. The actual malice standard established in New York Times v. Sullivan likely increased (relatively) the cost of candidacy for good people and lowered the quality of officials. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006
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