Friday Afternoon News Dumps: Myth or Reality?

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Here is Jeremiah Goulka on the Obama administration’s announcement last week that the Keystone XL pipeline won’t increase greenhouse gas emissions:

Chances are that you missed the State Department releasing the final environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline last week. You were meant to: it came out on 4pm on the Friday before Super Bowl Sunday. The mainstream media only had a few moments to glance at the executive summary—the report itself is an un-skimmable eleven volumes long—before the news cycle moved onto the big game.

I’m just curious: does anyone really believe this anymore? I’m talking about the infamous Friday afternoon news dump. It’s an article of faith that bad news is always released on Friday afternoon, where it will get lost in the weekend news cycle, but isn’t the evidence pretty strong that this doesn’t work? Maybe for small stuff it does, but it sure doesn’t seem to be the case for anything that people would otherwise care about. The Keystone XL report is a pretty good example. It seems to me that it got about as much attention as it was ever likely to get no matter when it was released.

I think some enterprising graduate student needs to write a dissertation about this. Create a metric that predicts how much attention a piece of news “deserves”—we can call it DQ—and then check to see if news dumps on Friday underperform the DQ metric over, say, the next 30 days. Let’s find out if this is myth or reality.

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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