A newly released study found that left-leaning news sites are strongly favored by Google in its “Top Stories” results for online searches.
The Computational Journalism Lab at Northwestern University conducted an audit singling out 200 queries related to the news cycle in November 2017 and determined three outlets far outranked all others: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Northwest communications professor Nicholas Diakopoulos reported in the Columbia Journalism Review that together these three accounted for 23 percent of all article impressions among Top Stories generated by Google.
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The only conservative outlet that appeared in the top 20 was Fox News.
“The data shows that just 20 news sources account for more than half of article impressions,” Diakopoulos said.
“These statistics underscore the degree of concentration of attention to a relatively narrow slice of news sources.”
Using an earlier study that identified the ideological bent of news outlets based on who shares the content on Facebook, the professor found left-leaning stories dominated the Top Stories results overall.
“Our data shows that 62.4 percent of article impressions were from sources rated by that research as left-leaning, whereas 11.3 percent were from sources rated as right-leaning,” according to Diakopoulos. “26.3 percent of impressions were from news sources that didn’t have ratings.”
“But even if that last set of unknown impressions happened to be right-leaning, the trend would still be clear: A higher proportion of left-leaning sources appear in Top Stories.”
Diakopoulos recounted even when multiple source stories showed up on a particulate search topic, a few left-leaning outlets far surpassed all others.
“For instance, the query ‘rex tillerson’ had 38 sources, but just two of those sources — the Times and CNN — were responsible for 75 percent of the article impressions,” Diakopoulos said.
One possible explanation for left-leaning news outlets dominating the results is they are simply producing more news stories.
A review of global database GDELT Project determined there were 2.2 times as many articles from left-leaning sources than right.
However, Google’s Top Stories placement magnified the differential even further, with a ratio of 3.2 left-leaning to every one right-leaning.
For CNN, placement in the Top Stories block meant a roughly 24 percent increase in search engine generated traffic.
Google and its subsidiary YouTube are also financially supporting mostly left-leaning outlets as part of its Google News Initiative, The Western Journal reported.
Google said that in one year, they helped news organizations worldwide by giving over $12.6 billion to “partners” and driving over 10 billion clicks to their websites.
In the list of news publishers from the United States that received funding from YouTube, over half of the publishers could be considered “center-left,” “left-leaning” or “far-left” news organizations, according to classification by Media Bias/Fact Check.
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