Is the world getting flatter? A new method for examining structural trends in the news

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Abstract

In this article, we propose a new method to analyze structural changes in networks over time and examine how the representation of the world in two leading newspapers, the New York Times and Der Spiegel, has changed during the past 50 years. We construct international networks based on the co-occurrences of country names in news items and trace changes in their distribution of centrality over time. Supporting previous studies, our findings indicate a consistent gap between the most central and the least central countries over the years, with the United States remaining at the center of the network and African countries at its peripheries. Surprisingly, the most dynamic changes in the past 50 years occurred in what we call the “middle range”. In both outlets, we identified a trend of convergence, in other words, a more equal centrality of European, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries in the news. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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