What Drives Media Slant? Evidence from U.S. Daily Newspapers
Matthew Gentzkow, Jesse M. Shapiro
NBER Working Paper No. 12707
We construct a new index of media slant that measures whether a news outlet’s language is more similar to a congressional Republican or Democrat. We apply the measure to study the market forces that determine political content in the news. We estimate a model of newspaper demand that incorporates slant explicitly, estimate the slant that would be chosen if newspapers independently maximized their own profits, and compare these ideal points with firms’ actual choices. Our analysis confirms an economically significant demand for news slanted toward one’s own political ideology. Firms respond strongly to consumer preferences, which account for roughly 20 percent of the variation in measured slant in our sample. By contrast, the identity of a newspaper’s owner explains far less of the variation in slant, and we find little evidence that media conglomerates homogenize news to minimize fixed costs in the production of content.