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2 - Public Responsiveness to Media

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2022

Stuart N. Soroka
Affiliation:
University of California, Los Angeles
Christopher Wlezien
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
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Summary

This chapter spells out how we believe the mass media cover public policy, particularly the outputs government produces. Although there is a considerable body of work detailing a range of biases in coverage and a lack of policy content, we posit that mass media can and do track trends in policy, at least in very salient policy areas that attract a lot of attention. Put differently, even as media can be biased and provide inaccurate information, there also can be a signal of important policy actions amidst the noise. News organizations have a professional and economic interest in doing so, at least up to a point. We are especially interested in media coverage of policy change. This is in part because we suppose that media often reports on change in policy, not levels, much as research on news coverage of other areas, for example, economic conditions, has revealed. (Change also seems easier to directly measure.) The conceptualization and theory in this chapter guide both the measurement and analyses that follow.

Type
Chapter
Information
Information and Democracy
Public Policy in the News
, pp. 22 - 38
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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