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Abstract

In 2020, conspiracies moved from the fringes of society, to the very center of socio-political life in the United States. In response, news sources have created an area of reporting called the misinformation beat. Covering conspiratorial content, however, poses unique epistemic challenges for journalists and researchers. One concern is that covering emerging conspiracy theories may inadvertently expose trusting readers to an especially seductive form of misinformation. Another concern is that savvy conspiracy theorists may be manipulating the media into unintentionally “spreading the word”. Given these dilemmas, this project seeks to quantify and qualify the coverage of conspiracy theories by digital news sources in the United States. The interaction between news and conspiratorial content is modeled through a computational content analysis and a network analysis of New York Times articles.

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