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Do Newspapers Serve the State? Incumbent Party Influence on the US Press, 1869-1928

  • Matthew Gentzkow
  • Nathan Petek
  • Jesse M. Shapiro
  • Michael Sinkinson

Using data from 1869 to 1928, we estimate the effect of party control of state governments on the entry, exit, circulation, prices, number of pages, and content of Republican and Democratic daily newspapers. We exploit changes over time in party control of the governorship and state legislatures in a differences-in-differences design. We exploit close gubernatorial elections and state legislatures with small majorities in a parallel regression-discontinuity design. Neither method reveals evidence that the party in power affects the partisan composition of the press. Our confidence intervals rule out modest effects, and we find little evidence of incumbent party influence even in times and places with high political stakes or low commercial stakes. The one exception is the Reconstruction South, an episode that we discuss in detail.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18164.

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Date of creation: Jun 2012
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Publication status: published as Matthew Gentzkow & Nathan Petek & Jesse M. Shapiro & Michael Sinkinson, 2015. "Do Newspapers Serve The State? Incumbent Party Influence On The Us Press, 1869–1928," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 29-61, 02.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18164
Note: DAE POL
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  1. Baron, David P., 2006. "Persistent media bias," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 1-36, January.
  2. John McMillan & Pablo Zoido, 2004. "How to Subvert Democracy: Montesinos in Peru," Discussion Papers 03-030, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  3. Rafael Di Tella & Ignacio Franceschelli, 2009. "Government Advertising and Media Coverage of Corruption Scandals," NBER Working Papers 15402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2005. "The Market for News," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1031-1053, September.
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  7. Edward L. Glaeser & Bryce A. Ward, 2006. "Myths and Realities of American Political Geography," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 119-144, Spring.
  8. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "What Drives Media Slant? Evidence from U.S. Daily Newspapers," NBER Working Papers 12707, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Ruben Durante & Brian Knight, 2009. "Partisan Control, Media Bias, and Viewer Responses: Evidence from Berlusconi's Italy," NBER Working Papers 14762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Petrova, Maria, 2008. "Inequality and media capture," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 183-212, February.
  11. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro & Michael Sinkinson, 2014. "Competition and Ideological Diversity: Historical Evidence from US Newspapers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(10), pages 3073-3114, October.
  12. 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.
  13. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro & Michael Sinkinson, 2011. "The Effect of Newspaper Entry and Exit on Electoral Politics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 2980-3018, December.
  14. Andrei Shleifer & Daniel Treisman, 2005. "A Normal Country: Russia After Communism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 151-174, Winter.
  15. Lee, David S., 2008. "Randomized experiments from non-random selection in U.S. House elections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 675-697, February.
  16. Casey B. Mulligan & Kevin K. Tsui, 2008. "Political Entry, Public Policies, and the Economy," NBER Working Papers 13830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Media Bias," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1981, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  18. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-56, March.
  19. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2008. "Competition and Truth in the Market for News," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 133-154, Spring.
  20. Glaeser, Edward L. & Ward, Bryce A., 2006. "Myths and Realities of American Political Geography," Working Paper Series rwp06-007, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  21. Nancy Qian & David Yanagizawa-Drott, 2010. "Government Distortion in Independently Owned Media: Evidence from U.S. Cold War News Coverage of Human Rights," NBER Working Papers 15738, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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