Saturday, April 1, 2017

WSJ Slant

I'd be running up that road
Be running up that hill
With no problems
--Kate Bush

When reading UCLA (now GMU) prof Tim Groseclose's fine book on media bias several years back, I was surprised that his estimated slant quotient for the Wall Street Journal pushed the publication significantly to the left side of his bias scale. Although I had never read the WSJ regularly at the time, I had always assumed that its business-oriented content would position neutrally or to the right on a scale that accurately measures degree of political bias.

Groseclose (p. 156) explains this seemingly anomalous result as consistent with long recognized differences between the Journal's editorial and news functions. He cites numerous sources that characterize the WSJ editorial department as conservative and the news department as progressive. In his study, Groseclose gathered data only from the news pages of the WSJ.

Since late last summer, I have been reading the web version of the Wall Street Journal on a daily basis as a function of school-related activities. My experience corroborate's Groseclose's findings. The two web pages that I most frequently visit, the front page lander and the logistics report, regularly feature content that is skewed left and in many cases openly hostile toward the current administration. News at the WSJ is not well balanced.

Although I am not a big consumer of opinion pages, my periodic excursions into WSJ editorial columns suggest that this function may not be as conservative as Groseclose assumes, either. Left leaning views are well represented on the Journal's editorial pages.

It should be noted that my personal experience with the WSJ is relatively recent and coincides with a presidential election that upset not only progressives, but also many in the GOP establishment. Plausibly, some of the imbalance currently displayed in news and editorial pages reflects anti-Trump hostility emanating from main line Republican partisans.

It would be interesting to apply Groseclose's slant quotient analysis in a longitudinal study of WSJ news content to learn how bias may have evolved over the past few years.

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