The Demand for Media Bias

by F.

In his recent piece on Lou Dobbs for The New Yorker, Ken Auletta drops this little factoid:

A recent Pew poll…suggested that there is little difference in credibility among the cable news networks; the poll also noted that the number of Americans who said they believed “all or most” of what CNN reported has fallen from forty-two per cent to twenty-eight per cent since 1998.

What about the other seventy-two percent who don’t believe “all or most” of what CNN reported? Clearly, people don’t watch the news for information—data. Rather, it’s an entertainment product masquerading as an information source.

But whose fault is that?

New research by two University of Chicago economists, Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, entitled “What Drives Media Slant? Evidence From U.S. Daily Newspapers” … compiles some compelling and altogether unusual data to answer the question….

Gentzkow and Shapiro conclude that

the main driver of any slant was the newspaper’s audience, not bias by the newspaper’s owner.

A comparison of circulation data (per capita) to the ratio of Republican to Democratic campaign contributions by ZIP code showed that circulation was strongly related to whether the newspaper matched the readers’ own ideology.

So the customers are getting what they want: bullshit. Well, at least it’s entertaining.