Capturing the Fourth Estate: Government Influence on U.S. Media Coverage of Foreign Leaders

62 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2023 Last revised: 5 Feb 2024

See all articles by Ruilin Lai

Ruilin Lai

Washington University in St. Louis - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 8, 2023

Abstract

Governments worldwide seek to affect what stories reporters write about. This article examines the extent and ways in which the variation in the U.S. media’s coverage of foreign leaders across time and space is shaped by the U.S. government. Leveraging data scraped from five major U.S. newspapers covering over 1,000 foreign leaders from 1960 to 2015, I find that in tandem with the U.S. government’s interests, news outlets are prone to suppress their coverage of human rights violators who are politically aligned with the United States, while providing more extensive reportage on those who do not. Further evidence suggests that the U.S. government exerts its influence on the media through selective dissemination of information during press briefings and through press releases. These findings have important implications for how we understand media bias and media capture in democratic societies.

Keywords: media bias, media capture, human rights, international news

JEL Classification: D725, L82

Suggested Citation

Lai, Ruilin, Capturing the Fourth Estate: Government Influence on U.S. Media Coverage of Foreign Leaders (July 8, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4348122 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4348122

Ruilin Lai (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - Department of Political Science ( email )

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St. Louis, MO 63130
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