Examining media coverage of the subprime mouurtgage [sic] phenomenon
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] When both outsiders and insiders attempt to describe bias in the American media, the conversation is primarily dominated by accusations of left-right political partiality. Yet, some scholars contend a more inherent (and potentially more insidious) prejudice is at play; they propose that the media show favoritism toward the American corporate or capitalist class in coverage of economic news. Coverage of the recent subprime mortgage boom (and its subsequent bust) proved a timely laboratory in which to test the premise that economic coverage tilts toward capitalist interests. Specifically, this research was designed to address the hypothesis that stories published before the subprime mortgage collapse would reveal more evidence of a favorable bias toward capitalism than those reported after the crash. Attitudes toward the regulation of markets were treated as the clearest indicator of attitudes toward capitalism; positive judgments about loosely regulated or deregulated markets were considered capitalism-positive while expressions favoring strong regulation were considered capitalism-negative. Two sets of stories were collected, content analyzed and compared: stories published during the subprime mortgage boom (2004-2006) and those published when the mortgage collapse was certain (the last six months of 2008). Intending to measure reports from thought leaders who reach the general American public, The New York Times and CNN were studied. In all, 298 stories were read and coded. After analyzing the samples, the hypothesis was largely proven false. Stories in both samples were generally negative toward capitalism and the regulation of markets.
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