Media Slant is Contagious

42 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2020

See all articles by Philine Widmer

Philine Widmer

University of St.Gallen

Sergio Galletta

University of Bergamo; ETH Zürich

Elliott Ash

ETH Zürich

Date Written: October 15, 2020

Abstract

This paper provides causal evidence on how partisan news messaging from cable television influences the content published by newspapers in U.S. localities. We introduce a new parallel corpus of newspaper articles (24M articles in 600+ local newspapers) and transcribed television news shows (40K cable news episodes from Fox News Channel CNN, and MSNBC) for the years 2005-2008. We measure media influence using a supervised learning model that predicts, for a given piece of text, the probability that it comes from a Fox News transcript, rather than from CNN or MSNBC. After validating the measure, we apply it to the local newspaper article texts. Exogenous variation in news viewership across localities comes from relative channel numbering, which we use as instruments. We find that an exogenous increase in local viewership of a cable news network shifts the textual content of local newspapers toward that network’s content. Televised media slant works not just through persuading viewers, but through influencing other media outlets.

Suggested Citation

Widmer, Philine and Galletta, Sergio and Ash, Elliott, Media Slant is Contagious (October 15, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3712218 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3712218

Philine Widmer (Contact Author)

University of St.Gallen ( email )

Bodanstrasse 8
SIAW-HSG
St.Gallen, 9000
Switzerland

Sergio Galletta

University of Bergamo ( email )

Via Salvecchio, 19
Bergamo, 24129
Italy

ETH Zürich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

Elliott Ash

ETH Zürich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

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