Despite the key role the World Bank plays in funding and promoting development projects that not only harm developing nations but also maintain their dependence on core nations, core nation corporations, and international development institutions, many people still regard the World Bank as the world's most important and successful development institution, raising the question of how it is able to legitimate itself so successfully. Researchers have long been interested in explaining how powerful actors legitimize their activities, with one important strand of research highlighting the ways in which powerful organizations use impression management to keep the general public ignorant of actions these organizations undertake that would be deemed inappropriate, immoral, or illegitimate if widely known. We extend the literature on impression management, which tends to highlight powerful organizations’ defensive image maintenance practices and the strategies they use for communicating positive images to key stakeholders, by asking whether significant external parties, such as the news media, play an important role in affirming these organizational images and communicating them to external audiences. In particular, we examine three years’ worth of New York Times articles that highlight or in some way reference the World Bank, and ask whether the images of the World Bank presented by the Times are consistent with either the images of itself that the World Bank presents or the images set forth by the Bank's critics. We find that the Times highlights images of the World Bank that are highly consistent with the images set forth by the World Bank, while downplaying and ignoring images highlighted by the Bank's critics. This suggests that, intentionally or not, the New York Times plays an important role in helping the World Bank legitimize itself, in large part by helping the World Bank keep US citizens ignorant of the many negative effects of its development projects.
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