Thursday, May 04, 2006

The News Ecosystem Continues to Distill Itself

Stanford University policomm professor Shanto Iyengar and Washington Post polling director Richard Morin recently released the interesting though not entirely counterintuitive results of an online experiment designed to suss out whether political party identification exerts any effect on subjects' choice of news outlet. The answer, in brief, is a qualified "yes"—when people were presented with four hard-news headlines labeled "NPR," "CNN," "BBC," and "Fox News" and asked which they'd most like to read, self-identified Republicans and conservatives exhibited a marked pro-Fox bias. Democrats' preferences were split between NPR and CNN, an effect which may be explained by those stations' lack of perceived liberal bias among Dems, according to the authors. And thus journalistic "objectivity" slowly proceeds down the path of obsolescence toward eventual rout by the ascendant regime of opinion journalism.

In other Fox News news, the findings of a new content analysis by two economists suggest that the right-leaning network may have persuaded up to 8% of its audience to vote Republican between 1996 and 2004. I don't know how they managed to separate "the Fox News effect" from all the other factors that might have influenced the shift, but if further research bears out their explanation, I wouldn't be surprised if we begin seeing propaganda channels from other provinces of the political spectrum springing up to apply Murdoch's upstart prototype to their own political ends.