Author Archive | Prof. Timothy Groseclose, guest-blogging

My Last Post as a Guest Blogger: Thanks and Adieu

This marks my last post as a guest-blogger for Volokh Conspiracy.  I am very grateful and honored that Eugene V. has allowed me the opportunity.

During the last week or two, I think I have caught the bug for blogging.  I can announce today that as of next Monday (Sept. 5) I will become one of the official bloggers for Ricochet.com.

Earlier in the week, I discussed a number of topics on which I planned to blog.  I covered all of those topics, except one:  my description of the anti-newsroom.   I’m sorry I didn’t get to that.  I hope to do so on Ricochet.  (But you can get that discussion by reading Chapter 11 of Left Turn.)  Also on Ricochet, I hope to respond to some of the criticisms of my media-bias work that have come from fellow social-science professors.

One reason that I did not cover the latter topics is that I spent more time than I expected responding to comments of VC readers and one VC blogger.

Throughout the week, I was reminded of the time when Jesse Ventura became governor of Minnesota.  The day after the election, a newspaper quoted a professional wrestler with whom Ventura had worked.  As best I can remember, here is the quote from that wrestler:  “Jesse actually wasn’t that great a wrestler.  What he was really good at was getting the audience into a screaming match against him.”

I think I may be the Jesse Ventura of bloggers.

While my blogging style may emulate a fake fighter, my first blog post at Ricochet will be about a real fighter, Manny Pacquiao.  Specifically, I will break a story (as best I can determine, no media outlet or blog has ever reported it) that involves Pacquiao, one of his sponsors, Nike, and one [...]

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“Corporate Media” Theory

In this post I discuss a companion paper for Left Turn, “Hands are Shaky and Knees are Weak?  Are Journalists Really Dupes of their Corporate Bosses?”.   Here’s how the paper begins:

“There are NO liberal media outlets: they are ALL owned by corporations.  I can’t even comprehend how you managed to deny that fact in your head.”

That’s what “Heir” wrote in the reader comment section of an article posted on politicalwire.com.  “Heir” was responding to “passerby25,” who had written that he or she believes that the media, on the whole, are slightly more liberal than conservative.

“Heir” is what I call a “corporate media theorist.”  This is someone who asserts that the views of journalists are largely irrelevant to how they report.  Instead, much more important are the views of their corporate bosses.  Here are a couple more typical claims of corporate media theorists:

  • “You’re only as liberal as the man who owns you.” –Eric Alterman.  (This is the title of chapter two of his book What Liberal Media?.)
  • “The press is the hired agent of a moneyed system, set up for no other reason than to tell lies where the interests are concerned.”  -Henry Adams, quoted in Robert McChesney’s The Political Economy of Media, p. 28.
  • “[I]n reality, most journalists have about as much say over what is presented by newspapers and news programs as factory workers and foremen have over what a factory produces.”  -Robert Parry (quoted in Robert McChesney’s The Political Economy of the Media, p. 58.)

I’ll return to corporate media theory in a moment.  But first, I want to make a brief digression about the notion of falsifiability in science and religion.

Karl Popper is responsible for introducing the notion of “falsifiability.”  His notion asks: “With a particular [...]

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An Update on My UCLA-Admissions Controversy

In my post yesterday, when describing Chapter 6 of Left Turn, I discussed an L.A. Times article about UCLA admissions.  I noted that the article had a liberal bias—not because of any false statements but because it omitted some important true statements.  In general, it reported many facts that liberals would want people to learn but omitted many facts that conservatives would want people to learn.

One of the facts that it omitted was the following:

  • Students who apply to UCLA are aware of the politically-correct, pro-affirmative-action attitudes, and in order to exploit them, a large number of minority students reveal their race on the personal essays that they write in their applications.

For this post, the key phrase in the above passage is “a large number of minority students reveal their race.”  When I wrote the initial draft for the chapter, sometime in late 2007, I originally wrote that “most” minority students (as opposed to “a large number”) reveal their race.

I didn’t know whether it was accurate to write “most,” but I had seen lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it was .

The first piece of evidence was revealed to me in 1991.  I was in a serious relationship with a black woman, who was about to apply to grad school.  At first, she didn’t want any schools to give her affirmative action.  But when it became time actually to send out the applications, she became worried that she might not be accepted to any of the schools in which she was interested.

She consequently abandoned her insistence that she not receive affirmative action.  “I don’t care,” she joked to me one day.  “Just make me a token.  I just want to be accepted to at least one of the schools.”

“But how will they [...]

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My Response to Prof. Kerr’s Reply to My Response

I think my and Milyo’s results in many ways support and are consistent with the points that Prof. Kerr made.

To see this consider this fact:  As surveys show, in a typical election, Washington correspondents tend to vote 93-7 for the Democrat.

It happens that the district that contains Berkeley, California voted about 90-10 for Obama.  Thus, the district votes very similarly to Washington correspondents, and if anything it votes slightly more conservatively than Washington correspondents. Accordingly, if the sole goal of journalists were to persuade people, then their reports would sound approximately like a speech by Barbara Lee, the House representative from Berkeley, California. Lee’s PQ is approximately 100.  Thus, if the sole goal of journalists were to persuade, then their average Slant Quotient would be about 100.

Instead, according to my and Milyo’s results, the average Slant Quotient of mainstream news outlets is about 65.

Meanwhile, if the sole goal of journalists were to inform people—and to inform them in a centrist way (that is, to choose the facts that a centrist would think are the most important)—then they would report with an SQ of 50.

My results suggest that journalists adopt a weighted mix of the two goals—with about 2/3 of the weight on informing and 1/3 of the weight on persuading. [...]

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Case Study of an L.A. Times Article

Part 2 of my book is entitled “A Distortion Theory of Bias.”  It begins with Chapter 6: “Lies, Damned Lies, and Omitted Statistics.”  The following are the first several paragraphs of the chapter:

In the previous chapter I applied an economic signaling model to the media.  In particular, I suggested that the news reports of a journalist are similar to the “messages” that the “sender” in such a model reports to the “receiver.”

For such an application to be appropriate, however, a particular principle must be true:  The journalist must be more informed about the particular news topic than her readers or viewers are.  Rarely, I suggest, will this principle not be true.  Journalists, at least usually, read lots of background material and interview many key observers to make sure that it is true.

Sometimes, however, it won’t be true.  That is, if you are lucky, there will be a rare moment or two in your life, where you read or watch a news story, and you know at least as much about the story as the journalist knows.  Usually, for this to happen, you must be one of the participants in the story, or, due to special circumstances, a very close observer.

“A Startling Statistic at UCLA”

Such an occasion happened to me on June 3, 2006.   “A Startling Statistic at UCLA” was the headline I read that morning on the front page of the Los Angeles Times.

The article noted the low number of African Americans who would enroll as freshmen at UCLA that Autumn; it implied that the applications process was stacked against them; and at times it hinted—mainly through quotes of some far-left  students and other observers—that the problem was that UCLA faculty and administrators did not have sufficient desire for racial diversity.

At the

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My Reply to Orin Kerr

Professor Kerr:  Everything you said is exactly right.  Except, technically that was the methodology of my QJE paper with Milyo, not necessarily the methodology of my book.

My book uses three (and if you count Ch. 14, four) methodologies.  Only one of those is the QJE-article methodology.

Here is a copy of the QJE paper.  In case anyone has a copy of my book, I describe that methodology in Ch. 13.

For readers who want a less technical description of the methodology of the QJE article, here is a critique by Geoffrey Nunberg.  And here is a response by Milyo and me. [...]

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An Unplanned Response to Comments about my book, Left Turn

If I had followed my plan for guest blogging, my second post would have discussed (i) my resignation from the UCLA admissions committee, (ii) when I resigned, why I suspected that UCLA—in violation of Prop. 209—was using race as a factor in admissions, and (iii) how an L.A. Times article distorted the truth about UCLA, race, and admissions.  I’ll discuss those topics later, maybe this afternoon.

Except here is one detail I want to give now.   Before resigning, I attended the Martin Luther King Day celebration at my daughter’s elementary school.  At the celebration, Mrs. Baker, my daughter’s teacher explained: “Just as we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, we shouldn’t judge people by the color of their skin.”

My post yesterday, as well as my book in general, seems to have touched a few nerves.  I’m now ready to respond to some of the comments about that post.  Here goes.

Ted says:

Uh. Does anyone expect a book titled Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind is going to contain legitimate and honest research? I mean, it might, but I don’t think any one would expect it to do so, and more often than not, they would be correct.

If you were serious about the issue, and wanted to actually prove a point via research and analysis, you title the book Media Influence: How Media Bias Affects Consumers’ Beliefs and Actions. That’s something I might read if I wanted to learn something, but judging from the comments so far, that’s not the book that Prof. Groseclose wrote.

Mrs. Baker’s comments, I think, were wise not just in regard to race, but also literally in regard to how one should judge a book.

As for judging the book by the comments of VC readers, I’m [...]

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My New Book, Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind

This week, thanks to the invitation of my friend and colleague Eugene Volokh, I will guest-blog about my book Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. I am extremely honored and grateful for the opportunity.

Later in the week, I plan to discuss some specific aspects of my book, including: (i) why I believe journalists should be more open about their political views, (ii) why the “corporate media theory,” a favorite notion among the far left, is more like religion than science, (iii) how my very public resignation from a UCLA faculty committee on admissions would never have happened if I hadn’t been writing Left Turn at the time, and (iv) what the mirror image of a newsroom would look like—that is, what a newsroom would look like if journalists views became as conservative as they currently are liberal.

But today I will focus mainly on a summary of the book. (But briefly say something about the notion of a “political quotient.”)

Earlier today, Eugene V. provided an excellent summary. Just in case you don’t want to search for that, here’s maybe the best two-sentence summary of the book. 1) It attempts to measure media bias quantitatively and scientifically, and it shows that, yes, basically the entire mainstream media have a liberal bias. 2) The bias has shifted the average American’s views about 20–25 points on the “political quotient scale”—about the difference between the average voter in a purple state (such as Iowa or Nevada) and the average voter in a solid red state (such as Texas or Kentucky).

A review in the Weekly Standard gives a longer summary. And if you’d like to see me summarizing the book on video, then click (i) here for a short interview (on the O’Reilly Factor), (ii) here for [...]

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