Paper Trail

Friday, April 03, 2009


A recent study by Princeton economics Professor Sam Schulhofer-Wohl showed that the 2007 closure of The Cincinnati Post resulted in lower voter participation and less incumbent turnover in municipal government. Schulhofer-Wohl is careful not to extrapolate but says the results don't bode well for democracy in the age of declining newspapers.

Comments [9]

Bilal Carter

Journalist and fellow readers aren’t the only ones directly affected by the closure of the newspapers. The democracy party is thought to have a major decline in the towns where the papers that are losing strength. The political parties are one of many areas to suffer drastic blows from the closure of these. The parties are going to move to the internet when the next election is going on because that is where a lot of the newspaper audience has resorted to. Papers are dying and taking other things down with them. Domino effect.

Apr. 27 2009 05:35 AM
norgi from Arkansas

Matt, you've all got it right. The interviewer was the one trying to make a story out of it, not the scientist. That's the kind of poor service Chris was talking about which will kill any kind of media (or at least it's provider) eventually.

If we know the science is flawed, it's harmless and could be impetus for better/more research on the same topic so it's worth talking about.

Apr. 25 2009 01:30 PM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

Chris, the publishing of bad methodologies is bad for social science whether it is on OTM, in Science or the American Political Science Review. Bad methods hurt social science. After all why do people think it so important to debate Darwin?

Apr. 10 2009 12:32 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Ah, come on! These are broadcasters and they're just trying to find another hook upon which to hang the "newspapers are dying faster than bats" story and they hit on this premature, preliminary study. It won't bring down social science!

I've been saying, lately, that newspapers so badly serve the public good (see last week's segent on the Time's coverage of the Kitty Genovese murder) that pretty soon we'll be back to just troubadours for our news.

Apr. 10 2009 01:47 AM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

The statement that "we found that the closing of The Post reduced voter turnout and reduced the number of people running for office, and raised the chance that incumbents would be reelected" is a statement of social scientific conclusion with dubious methodological support, as evidenced by some of the qualifiers. The qualifiers do not excuse the misleading "we found" that hurts the credibility of all social science and OTM.

Apr. 07 2009 11:41 AM
David from Rhode Island

*though = thought
*carellates = correlates

Apr. 06 2009 03:18 PM
David from Rhode Island

Matt W. - You are right, but to be fair he said exactly that in the interview. Given that, one could argue that this was prematurely reported. Why report a social science investigation before it is complete? But again, they admitted themselves the data set was too small and too isolated to this one area.

I could also speculate on alternative explanations. Perhaps people that read the Post were predominantly Republican and thus were not swept up in the Obama wave, and stayed home because they though McCain didn't have a chance. Or given that this was in Kentucky, that there was no way it was going for Obama anyway but they were not excited about McCain. In any case, there could be bias in who was the predominant readership of the Post and that is what carrelates to the lower turnout. I am sure others could come up with equally plausible explanations that cannot be ruled in or out is by statistical analysis due to the extremely limited data set.

So in the end, the question really is "does less information to the general public hurt democracy" (carefully defining "hurt") and then, if that is shown to be true, the follow-up question could be "Does the declline of newspapers mean that the public is getting less information or lower quality information or both?" I think they are asking #2 before demonstrating a liklihood of #1 being so.

Apr. 06 2009 03:14 PM
Pat Klemme from Phoenix AZ / USA

Small towns isolated from metropolitan newspapers are at the mercy of a local citizen putting out a local news sheet limited to that individual's point of view and biases. Winslow Arizona's 'publisher' declined to run even a paid ad for a PFLAG (parents & friends of gays/lesbians) for a small local event. More than democracy seems to be at risk.

Apr. 05 2009 04:50 PM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Schulhofer-Wohl needs to see Dr. Keohane for a refresher course on designing social inquiry. Drawing such conclusions from such a small data-set is methodological suspect and does a disservice to academic researchers everywhere.

Apr. 03 2009 04:45 PM

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