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Media Bias and Reputation

  • Matthew Gentzkow
  • Jesse Shapiro

A Bayesian consumer who is uncertain about the quality of an information source will infer that the source is of higher quality when its reports conform to the consumer's prior expectations. We use this fact to build a model of media bias in which firms slant their reports toward the prior beliefs of their customers in order to build a reputation for quality. Bias emerges in our model even though it can make all market participants worse off. The model predicts that bias will be less severe when consumers receive independent evidence on the true state of the world, and that competition between independently owned news outlets can reduce bias. We present a variety of empirical evidence consistent with these predictions.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11664.

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Date of creation: Oct 2005
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Publication status: published as Gentzkow, Matthew and Jesse M. Shapiro. "Media Bias And Reputation," Journal of Political Economy, 2006, v114(2,Apr), 280-316.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11664
Note: LS PE
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  1. Matthew Gentzkow & Edward L. Glaeser & Claudia Goldin, 2004. "The Rise of the Fourth Estate: How Newspapers Became Informative and Why It Mattered," NBER Working Papers 10791, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Timothy Besley & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 720-736, June.
  3. Djankov, Simeon & McLeish, Caralee & Nenova, Tatiana & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "Who owns the media?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2620, The World Bank.
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  16. Stephen Morris, 1999. "Political Correctness," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1242, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  17. Kreps, David M. & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Reputation and imperfect information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 253-279, August.
  18. Grant, S & Kajii, A & Polak, B, 1997. "Intrinsic Preference for Information," Papers 323, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  19. Effinger, Matthias R. & Polborn, Mattias K., 2001. "Herding and anti-herding: A model of reputational differentiation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 385-403, March.
  20. Avery, Christopher & Chevalier, Judith, 1999. "Identifying Investor Sentiment from Price Paths: The Case of Football Betting," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 72(4), pages 493-521, October.
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