Beyond Borders: Is Media Freedom Contagious?
Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, the rights of domestic news organizations have expanded in many countries, though there have been some notable counterexamples. Scholars have linked such “media freedom” to wider issues of economic performance and effectiveness of governance, and to respect for human rights.
A 2010 study by published in Kyklos: International Review of Social Sciences, “Beyond Borders: Is Media Freedom Contagious?” applied spatial econometric techniques to a sample of 102 countries to measure the level of geographic spillovers of media freedom, from one neighboring country to another. The authors surveyed the period 1994 to 2003.
The study’s findings include:
- Controlling for baseline press freedom and alternative influences, countries “catch” between 18% and 24% of their media freedom from neighboring countries.
- This roughly 20% spillover effect was largely unchanged when nations of varying size and level of democratization were compared.
- The data also suggest that the impact works in the opposite direction: if one country has a relatively controlled media, neighboring countries are more likely to have a more restricted media environment.
The researchers, based at West Virginia University, the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and the World Bank Institute, state that the study demonstrates that “a country resistant to change can be influenced by reforms enacted in geographically neighboring countries.”
Tags: news, human rights
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the study "Beyond Borders: Is Media Freedom Contagious?"
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article "Ex-Chinese Officials Join in Call for Press Freedom."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.