Coverage bias in business news: evidence and methodological implications

Tomi Nokelainen (Patents Business, Berggren Group, Tampere, Finland)
Juho Kanniainen (Laboratory of Industrial and Information Management, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Publication date: 16 April 2018

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to investigate whether the assumption of bias-free journalism is violated. If there is systematic news coverage bias inherent in business journalism, certain kinds of companies will have a systematically higher or lower visibility in business news. Such differential corporate visibility may undermine the validity of research that is based solely on business news as a data source.

Design/methodology/approach

A set of hypotheses is developed and statistically tested, concerning the corporate characteristics associated with business media coverage. Coverage of the 100 largest Finnish companies is examined within the three foremost Finnish business publications. Methodologically, uncorrelated principal components in regression analyses are used.

Findings

The main finding is that that financially low-performing companies and growing companies receive less coverage than well-performing or shrinking companies, indicating a possible bias in journalistic sourcing, attention or selection. Consequently, such companies may be relatively under-represented in data sets derived solely from business news sources.

Research limitations/implications

Significantly greater in-depth understanding of the phenomenon could be obtained through studying the biases at play in day-to-day journalistic practices within editorial offices and news desks, which is beyond the present study. The study cautions against single sourcing strategies reliant on business news alone, and it strongly recommends that future studies complement business news data with other, non-news sources.

Practical implications

Organizational metrics such as financial performance appear to influence corporate visibility in business news, which may therefore skew individuals’ and investors’ attitudes to corporations. The existence of coverage bias is methodologically consequential because management research often sources data from business news, especially in event-based studies.

Originality/value

This study provides evidence that media visibility is influenced by company performance and change in company size, which could contribute to bias in business news coverage. This should be taken into account in future studies that use business news data.

Keywords

Citation

Nokelainen, T. and Kanniainen, J. (2018), "Coverage bias in business news: evidence and methodological implications", Management Research Review, Vol. 41 No. 4, pp. 487-503. https://doi.org/10.1108/MRR-02-2017-0048

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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