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Matthew Gentzkow is the man who explained why the media are like ice cream. Gentzkow, who teaches at the University of Chicago, has just won the John Bates Clark Medal for an outstanding American economist under 40 (he’s 38). He has some interesting ideas about the modern media, which he culled by studying traditional media — namely, newspapers.

Along with economist Jesse Shapiro, also of Chicago, Gentzkow examined the ideological “slant” of newspapers by identifying various words and phrases favored by liberals or conservatives. For instance, conservatives often say “illegal aliens” when liberals prefer “undocumented workers.” Another example: What liberals refer to as “the estate tax,” conservatives call “the death tax.” By tallying newspapers’ use of liberal and conservative phrases, Gentzkow and Shapiro determined papers’ political slant. This compromised their “objective” pursuit of the news.

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