April 28, 2009

Obama's First 100 Days

Total Amount of Coverage

Given his popularity, some might imagine that Obama has generated media attention like few presidents before him. It isn’t so.

Actually, Clinton was the dominant figure in more stories than Obama in their first two months when the same media outlets are compared. [1] Overall, there were 566 Clinton stories, 333 for Bush and 362 for Obama.

One major reason for the difference is that the space in newspapers even among the country’s biggest has gotten so much smaller. There were 324 stories about Clinton in the first two months of his presidency in the Washington Post and New York Times, 202 about Bush and 176 about Obama.

Yet the shrinking print newshole does not completely explain the smaller number of Obama stories. Clinton was also the dominant subject more frequently than Obama in stories on the three commercial network newscasts and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS as well—193 Clinton stories, 111 for Bush and 156 stories for Obama. Our sense is that the economy and its myriad problems are such a dominant story that the Obama Administration was often a part but not always the dominant subject of the reports.

1. For an individual to be considered the dominant newsmaker, 50% percent of the story must be about that person.