Mar 28 2008

Study Finds Decline of Think Tank Citations in Media

Think tank citations in the media are dropping, but right and center still predominate, according to a new study by FAIR.

The annual study, which FAIR has conducted since 1995, counts citations of the 25 most prominent think tanks of right, center and left, using the Nexis database. Citations for the 2008 study were counted in what Nexis designates to be major U.S. newspapers, as well as in transcripts of the broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC; the cable channels Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and CNBC; and publicly funded PBS and NPR.

Among the findings for 2007:

* The ideological breakdown was exactly the same in 2007 as it had been the previous year: Centrist think tanks garnered 47 percent of think tank citations, conservative think-tanks garnered 37 percent and progressive think-tanks received 16 percent.

* Overall, the number of think tank citations declined since the previous year; 2007 saw 14,790 think tanks citations, representing a drop of 17 percent since 2006, when the media cited think tanks 17,837 times.

* The centrist Brookings Institution once again led among all think tanks by a wide margin, with the general decline affecting them less than the average think tank.

Sociologist Michael Dolny, the author of the report, commented that “the decline in think tank visibility is not necessarily a bad thing.”

“Past surveys have indicated that think tank experts are rarely given an ideological label to put their claims in context…[although] these supposedly detached experts actually tilt toward the center-right.”

“Fewer of them spinning and shaping the news may be a net plus for media transparency.”

FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986.