Media Bias, Echo Chambers, and the Future of Democracy

Myron Scholes Global Markets Forum

December 4, 2014, 5:30–7 P.M.

New technologies have transformed the media landscape, and with it the way Americans learn about current affairs. Cable news is ever more ideological and opinionated. The internet provides a dizzying array of sources covering events from every conceivable perspective. Information can be disseminated more widely and cheaply than ever before, yet investment in journalism, the hard business of gathering and making sense of information, seems possibly on the brink of collapse.

What are the implications for the health of our democracy? Are we heading toward a Jeffersonian ideal where all possible views and opinions are aired in a robust marketplace of ideas? Or toward a world of polarization and ignorance, with citizens’ biases and preconceptions endlessly reinforced by internet echo chambers? Every day seems to bring another breathless account, predicting we are on the verge of either utopia or disaster. Matthew Gentzkow, Richard O. Ryan Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth, pulls together hard evidence and frontier theory to cut through the hyperbole, offering a balanced account of what we know, where we have been, and where we are going.

The Myron Scholes Global Markets Forum is part of the Initiative on Global Markets (IGM) and is generously sponsored by Myron Scholes.

Speaker Profiles

Matthew Gentzkow is Richard O. Ryan Professor of Economics and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He studies empirical industrial organization and political economy, with a specific focus on media industries.

Gentzkow received an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 2009, and the 2014 John Bates Clark Medal, given by the American Economic Association to the American economist under the age of 40 who has made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge. He has also been awarded several National Science Foundation grants for research on media, and a Faculty Excellence Award for teaching.

He was educated at Harvard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1997, a master’s degree in 2002, and a PhD in economics in 2004.