There Is No News: Government Distortion in U.S. Media Coverage of Foreign Leaders
Online Via Zoom


The U.S. media report on leaders of foreign countries at a frequency that varies by time and leader. This study examines whether and how this variation is influenced by the U.S. government. I argue that even though readers and journalists are, on average, more interested in leaders who commit human rights violations, U.S. news outlets, under capture from the government, would suppress their overall coverage of human rights violators who are politically aligned with the United States while reporting more frequently on those that are not. Using data scraped from five major U.S. newspapers on more than 1,700 foreign leaders from 1960 to 2015, I find strong and robust support for this contention. I also rule out the counterargument that such bias in international reporting is demand-driven by analyzing Google Trends data of U.S. searches on foreign leaders, and provide evidence that the U.S. government can guide media attention with selective information provision at White House and State Department press briefings and in their press releases. These findings have important implications for how we understand government distortion of the news in democratic societies.

Online Via Zoom
Speakers / Performers:
Mr. Ruilin LAI