Uncle Sam Is (Not) Watching: Government Influence on U.S. Media Coverage of Foreign Leaders
87 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2023
Date Written: February 4, 2023
The U.S. media report on leaders of foreign countries at a frequency that varies by time and leader. This study examines whether and how this variation is affected by the U.S. government. I argue that even though readers and journalists are, on average, more interested in leaders who commit human rights violations, U.S. news outlets, under the government’s influence, would suppress their overall coverage of human rights violators who are politically aligned with the United States while reporting more frequently on those who are not. Using data scraped from five major U.S. newspapers on more than 1,700 foreign leaders from 1960 to 2015, I find strong and robust support for this contention. I also provide direct and indirect evidence showing that the U.S. government can guide media attention with selective information provision. These findings have important implications for how we understand media capture in democratic societies.
Keywords: media bias, media capture, human rights, international news
JEL Classification: D725, L82
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation