May 25, 2007

Iraq Dominates PEJ’s First Quarterly NCI Report

Methodology

As a special report for PEJ’s weekly News Coverage Index (NCI), the Quarterly Report is based on the aggregated data collected from December 31, 2006 – March 31, 2007 (the first quarter of 2007).

Examining the news agenda of 48 different outlets in five media sectors, including newspapers, online, network TV, cable TV, and radio, the NCI is designed to provide news consumers, journalists and researchers with hard data about what stories and topics the media are covering, the trajectories of major stories and differences among news platforms. Following a rotation system, 35 outlets each weekday were selected as well as 7 newspapers each Sunday.

For its News Index, PEJ monitors 48 different news outlets each week (35 per week-day) from five different media sectors

Newspapers (Thirteen in all, Sun-Fri)

NY Times every day

Code 2 out of these 4 every day
Wash Post
LA Times
USA Today
Wall Street Journal

Code 2 out of these 4 every day
The Boston Globe
Star Tribune
Austin American-Statesman
Albuquerque Journal

Code 2 out of these 4 every day
The Sun Chronicle
Star Beacon
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
The Bakersfield Californian

Web sites (Five in all, Mon-Fri)

CNN.com
Yahoo News
MSNBC.com
Google News
AOL News

Network TV (Seven in all, Mon-Fri)

Morning shows
ABC – Good Morning America
CBS – Early Show
NBC – Today

Evening news
ABC – World News Tonight
CBS – CBS Evening News
NBC – NBC Nightly News
PBS – Newshour with Jim Lehrer

Cable TV (Fifteen in all, Mon-Fri)

Daytime (1–1:30 pm) – code 2 out of 3 every day
CNN
Fox News
MSNBC

Nighttime CNN – code 3 out of the 4 every day
Lou Dobbs Tonight
Situation Room (7 pm)
Paula Zahn Now
Anderson Cooper 360

Nighttime Fox News – code 3 out of the 4 every day
Special Report w/ Britt Hume
Fox Report w/ Shepard Smith
O’Reilly Factor
Hannity & Colmes

Nighttime MSNBC – code 2 out of the 4 every day
Tucker (6 pm)
Hardball (7 pm)
Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann
Scarborough Country

Radio (Eight in all, Mon-Fri)

Headlines every day
ABC Radio headlines at 9am and 5pm
CBS Radio headlines at 9am and 5pm
NPR Morning Edition every day

Talk Radio
Rush Limbaugh every day

1 out of 2 additional conservatives each day
Sean Hannity
Michael Savage

1 out of 2 liberals each day
Ed Schultz
Randi Rhodes

From that content, PEJ analyzes all stories with a national or international focus that appearing as follows:

  • On the front page of newspapers
  • In the entirety of commercial network evening newscasts.
  • The first 30 minutes of network morning news, the PBS evening news, and all cable programs
  • The top 5 stories on each website at the time of capture

The resulting universe of stories was coded by a team, which is made up of 8 trained coders, a coding administrator, and a senior research methodologist. The complete methodology for the weekly NCI has further details on the coding system and coder reliability.

This report aggregates the NCI from December 31, 2006- March 31, 2007. The resulting universe totals 17,416 news stories, 456 hours of broadcast content (147 hours from network TV, 224 hours from cable, 85 hours from radio), 2.10 million words in newspapers, and 1.06 million words from news websites.

The accumulated quarterly data not only allows us to analyze the news coverage over the entire quarter across media sector. With this much data we can also compare the news agenda by news outlets, by time of day, or by media sector, and probe coverage of particular stories and topics much more deeply.

In particular, this quarterly report identified the top stories over the quarter and examined how certain big stories (such as Iraq War, presidential campaign, Anna Nicole Smith, U.S. attorney firings) ebbed and flowed, and how their treatment differed among media sectors or outlets. The Iraq War has received so much so far in 2007 that we developed three distinct threads: the Iraq policy debate, events on the ground in Iraq, and U.S. homefront. Each Iraq story is coded for one of these three story lines. For the statistics that relate to coverage of the Iraq War as a whole, we added the total of those three storylines together to get the overall Iraq War coverage statistics.

Lexis Database Search

The Lexis-Nexis database search was conducted for each of the three leading candidates from both the Republican and Democratic fields. The newspapers that were searched were the ones that were included in our weekly index that are also available in the Lexis database.

The newspapers included in this search were:

New York Times

Washington Post

Los Angeles Times

USA Today

Boston Globe

Star Tribune (MN)

Chattanooga Times Free Press

Albuquerque Journal

Austin American-Statesmen

We also searched news transcripts from the three major network television stations. These transcripts include such news programs like 20/20 and 60 Minutes that are not a part of the PEJ’s weekly sample. Election news in these programs, though, was minimal. In addition, Lexis transcripts cover the entire program not only the 1st 30 min’s as is studied for the NCI.

The television programs included in the search were:

ABC

        World News Tonight

        This Week

        20/20

        Good Morning America

CBS

        60 Minutes

        CBS Evening News

        The Early Show

        Face the Nation

NBC

        Meet the Press

        NBC Nightly News

        Today

PBS

        NewsHour with Jim Lehrer

For both newspapers and the television transcripts, searches were conducted using the last names of the candidates that appeared in either the headline or lead paragraphs of the story. The reason for searching for the names in the headline or lead paragraphs was to determine the number of stories that focused on the candidates. Another option would have been to search for mentions anywhere in the article or transcript which would have yielded more results, but would have also included many stories where the candidates were not central to the story.

The one exception for using the candidate’s last name was Hillary Clinton. Because of former President Bill Clinton, a search of the name “Clinton” would yield many articles about him and not the current Senator from New York. In addition, many articles refer to the candidate as “Hillary Clinton” while others refer to her as “Hillary Rodham Clinton”. Therefore, we searched for both options in order to get the proper total number of stories.