Media Bias and Reputation
52 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2005 Last revised: 9 Dec 2005
Date Written: October 2005
A Bayesian consumer who is uncertain about the quality of an information source will infer that the source is of higher quality when its reports conform to the consumer's prior expectations. We use this fact to build a model of media bias in which firms slant their reports toward the prior beliefs of their customers in order to build a reputation for quality. Bias emerges in our model even though it can make all market participants worse off. The model predicts that bias will be less severe when consumers receive independent evidence on the true state of the world, and that competition between independently owned news outlets can reduce bias. We present a variety of empirical evidence consistent with these predictions.
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