Can public intellectuals be used to assess partisan media slant?

Andrew Leigh and Joshua Gans have a new paper out on media ‘slant’ (which they prefer to ‘bias’, given that reporting can be negative or positive for reasons unrelated to prior partisan feelings).

One of their methodologies for assessing ‘slant’, getting five people to code article and editorial content, seems sensible – though it would be good to extend the analysis beyond the 2004 election campaign, given that it would be quite possible that leadership issues in that campaign made some papers appear more anti-Labor than they are on ideological grounds alone.

But another methodology using public intellectuals, as Sinclair Davidson has argued at Catallaxy, just isn’t going to work.

They’ve rated the partisan nature of various public intellectuals according to whether they are most mentioned by Coalition or Labor politicians in a positive or neutral way. As Sinc points out, this immediately starts to get some very counter-intuitive results:

Does anyone really believe that Philip Adams (26 mentions, 65% Coalition) is a right-winger? Other right-wingers include Eva Cox (9 mentions, 56% Coalition), Germaine Greer (4 mentions, 75% Coalition) and Hugh MacKay (18 mentions, 78% Coalition). Kevin Rudd’s best friend Glyn Davis (18 mentions, 56% Coalition) looks to be a tory too.

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Australia’s not so large education export industry

Reporting of Julia Gillard’s India trip has regularly mentioned Australia’s ‘$15 billion’ international education industry.

Eighteen months ago I claimed that these figures were inflated, and while I was away last month Bob Birrell offered the most detailed substantiation yet of this argument.

In addition to the point I made about the need to deduct earnings by overseas students while in Australia, he adds that estimates of their spending while here are too high. I think he’s right, though a new survey of international students is needed to arrive at a more defensible number.

Universities Australia boss Glenn Withers wrote an article for the Higher Education Supplement defending the $15 billion figure, but though making a couple of good points it is unconvincing overall.
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