Thoughts on the media

First is this article from Virginia Postrel,

Some people say they want “just the facts,” and fault reporters for introducing too much analysis. Others complain that stories do just the opposite, treating all sides in a conflict as equally valid. The news-buying public seems to want contradictory things.

But one person’s contradiction is another’s market niche. Those differences help answer an economic puzzle: if bias is a product flaw, why does it not behave like auto repair rates, declining under competitive pressure?

In a recent paper, “The Market for News,” two Harvard economists look at that question. “There’s plenty of competition” among news sources, Sendhil Mullainathan, one of the authors, said in an interview. But “the more competition there has been in the last 20 years, the more discussion there has been of bias.”

The reason, he and his colleague, Andrei Shleifer, argue, is that consumers care about more than accuracy. “We assume that readers prefer to hear or read news that are more consistent with their beliefs,” they write. Bias is not a bug but a feature.

In a competitive news market, they argue, producers can use bias to differentiate their products and stave off price competition. Bias increases consumer loyalty.

I’ve always though that the media should admit to having a side instead of pretending that they follow some conceptually impossible standard of objectivity.

The other is this very cool map of where all the news is coming from, called Buzztracker.

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