The political slants of the news diets of media figures

Jesse Shapiro and Matt Gentzow start off their short note as follows:

We use data from comScore,Mediamark Research & Intelligence (MRI), and The AtlanticWire “Media Diet” to study the news diets of media figures such as David Brooks and Tyler Cowen.

This is what they find:

Tyler Cowen’s news diet is relatively liberal: 45.7 percent of users of the average news outlet he visits are conservative.

This means that Cowen’s news diet is more conservative than 11 percent of all Internet users, and 8 percent of all media figures interviewed by the Atlantic Wire.

David Brooks’ news diet is relatively conservative: 60.4 percent of users of the average news outlet he visits are conservative. This means that Brooks’ news diet is more conservative than 74 percent of all Internet users and 72 percent of all media figures interviewed by the Atlantic Wire.

pp.3-4 in the paper offer the measurements for other media figures, including Jeff Goldberg, Felix Salmon, Marc Ambinder, and David Frum.

What do you think?  Do the more conservative commentators have a more conservative media diet?  Which factors determine the political slant of the media diet of a public intellectual?  Does it matter, for instance, where you were born?  I'll predict that conservatives who grew up in the Northeast are more likely to spend a lot of time with The New York Times than conservatives from the South.

Here is a previous MR post on this line of research by the authors.


obviously, this is their public diet, not the private one, full of chocolate covered marshmellows.

Al, I have been upfront about the "less mainstream" sites I have read, but I wouldn't classify them as "news." My answers to the Atlantic were fully sincere and on the mark concerning my daily media diet.

So, do liberals visit such large share of conservative sites because they are liberal and seek a range of views, or do conservative sites so heavily dominate the net that it is impossible to find a purely liberal website diet?

You might want to go to the link and read why what you wrote (both parts) cannot be true.

Diet is not a full solution for the problem. BTW i liked the book .

Tyler Cowen’s news diet is relatively liberal

I suspect a scoring artifact WRT how they score libertarians.

Of course, it's also possible that Cowen has a contrarian bent and purposely seeks out arguments he is likely to be able to publicly disagree with. He's not particularly given to the "What X said" style of posting.

"I occasionally come away disgusted"

Out of curiosity, what has disgusted you?

This is not surprising.

There is actually better tracking and linking research that has been done at MIT using network analysis. They tracked links within articles, and looked at the nodal networks that were created.

If you want a balanced diet of news and information from internet sources, you need to consciously eat your food from a food pyramid, rather than focus on sources that confirm your beliefs.

Unless, of course, you only like Twinkies.

Measuring the political leaning of a site by looking at its viewership probably makes sense given our instincts about how people behave, but theoretically at least this bootstrapping seems a little dodgy. We could at least imagine a liberal site that conservatives liked to visit or vice versa (for example, a radical and somewhat stupid site that allowed opponents on the opposite side of the spectrum to reinforce their worst suspicions about the other side...).
More generally, I feel that if I look at the long arc of history, I *should* be reading primarily liberal news outlets (speaking as a conservative). Conservatism is the defense of existing structures and traditions, and the embrace of caution, while liberalism (progressivism) is the advocacy of change and new systems in an attempt to create a better world. Conservatism will almost always be right because its ideas have actually been tested and found to work (in some sense), while most liberal ideas are basically idiotic wishful thinking underinformed by the constraints reality imposes on us. Despite this we have to give progressives (as here defined) credit for all political progress. So if I want to act as a judge of policy, it would surely be more useful to evaluate and critique liberal ideas (in an attempt to find something truly useful amid a mountain of dross) than to look at conservative ones. These despite being generally sound tell me nothing I didn't know, and can't act as a guide to social progress without some input from the progressive side.
Also, it's probably more interesting intellectually to read things you disagree with, even if it raises your blood pressure sometimes.

A truly conservative site is Worldnetdaily.

This would be the website that actively pushes Birther conspiracy theories. If I were conservative, no way would I want my political movement associated with these clowns.

Comments for this post are closed