by coverage of both a presidential housing relief plan and the Occupy Wall
Street protests, the economy accounted for 25% of the newshole last week,
marking its highest level of coverage in almost two months.
October 24-30, the economy filled 25% of the newshole, according to the Pew
Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. That is the most media
attention to the subject since the week of September 5-11, (28%) when President
Obama’s job speech helped fuel much of the coverage.
week, Obama’s plan to make it easier to refinance mortgages and the Occupy Wall
Street story combined to account for almost 40% of all the economic coverage. At
5% of the overall newshole, however, Occupy Wall Street fell far below its
biggest week of coverage (October 10-16), when it filled 10% of the overall
newshole. That was the case despite a spike in drama in a number of cities last
week as police clashed with protestors, with one encounter that resulting in a
critical injury of an Iraq war veteran in Oakland, Calif.
2012 presidential campaign was the No. 2 story last week, accounting for 18% of
the newshole—up slightly from 17% the week before. It also ranked as the No. 1 subject
on cable news, at 37% of the airtime studied in that sector. Much of the
coverage focused on competing tax plans as Texas Governor Rick Perry introduced
his flat tax proposal and businessman Herman Cain defended his now famous 9-9-9
plan. Perry’s tax plan was in part responsible for his return to the spotlight,
and helped make him a dominant figure in 34% of campaign stories last week, compared
to Cain’s 27%. (To register as a dominant newsmaker, someone must be featured
in at least 50% of a story.)
third-biggest story was unrest in the Middle East, at 6%, with the majority of
coverage focusing on Libya following the death of Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Many of
those news reports told of Gaddafi’s burial, along with his son and top
advisor, in an unmarked, secret location in the desert. The previous week, the
region was the top story, filling 18% of the newshole.
No. 4 story last week was the European economic crisis, which accountedfor 5%
of the newshole. The media interest revolved around an emergency summit to
address Greek debt that ended with a new bailout plan.
at 3%, was a devastating October 23 earthquake in Turkey, which took more than 600
lives and injured more than 2,500.
Monday, October 24, President Barack Obama announced he would be making a
change to his administration’s housing assistance plan with the goal of making
it simpler to refinance. Given the stalemate between the White House and
Congress on major economic legislation, last week’s plan was part of an effort
by the president to use his executive powers to implement limited changes in
policy. And much of the media reaction stressed that point.
evening on ABC’s World News Tonight, correspondent Jake Tapper reported that
“critics say that this new plan will be modest and not help as many people as
it should, for instance those who have been hit the hardest by the housing
NBC Nightly News on October 24, CNBC reporter Diana Olick called it a “very
limited program” before reciting a litany of housing problems that the program
would not address.
the proposal, designed to help underwater homeowners (those whose homes are
worth less than they owe on their mortgage), drew evaluations of Obama’s
broader efforts to improve the housing situation. And many of those evaluations
were negative. An October 24 Washington Post story called Obama’s early efforts
to ease the housing crisis a “critical plan to jump-start the economy,” but
added that “nearly three years later, it
hasn’t worked out.”
story went on to suggest that Obama’s mixed record on housing could drag down
his chances for reelection. “Doing more to address the housing crisis may be
crucial not only for an economy flirting with another recession but also for a
president running for reelection,” said the Post.
in some quarters, Obama’s proposal drew praise. In an October 24 report on the PBS
NewsHour, anchor Judy Woodruff asked University of Pennsylvania
professor Susan Wachter if the new Obama plan would provide a light at the end
of the tunnel for struggling homeowners. “I think it’s a win-win,” said
Wachter. “I don’t think it’s a game-changer, but I do think it helps get to
Candidates Duel over
a week when Herman Cain found himself at the top of the GOP presidential polls,
Rick Perry—whose campaign has been struggling—took the opportunity to cut in on
Cain’s turf by introducing a competing tax code plan to Cain’s catchy 9-9-9
proposal. The result was a week of media coverage focused intently on taxes and
on Perry as well.
Tuesday, October 25, Rick Perry revealed his plan to replace the current tax
code with a 20% flat rate, in what The New York Times on October 26 called the
“centerpiece of an ambitious proposal that aims to overhaul political sacred
cows like Social Security and Medicare while slashing the federal budget.”
News Channel’s Carl Cameron drew a direct link between Perry’s proposal and his
dive in the polls behind Romney and Cain. “Far back in the polls, Texas
Governor Rick Perry tried to jumpstart his campaign with a simple, optional
20-percent flat income tax,” reported Cameron on the October 25 edition of
Special Report with Brett Baier.
indeed, the media themselves appeared to be catching flat-tax fever if only by
virtue of the intense coverage of the topic. Yet not all outlets focused exclusively
on Republican tax ideas.
John King moderated anOctober 25 exchange between former Clinton Labor Secretary
Robert Reich, a Wall Street Journal reporter and a Republican political strategist
about the various Republican tax proposals compared to the current system.
Reich called for higher tax rates for the rich and an increase in federal
spending, King said “It’s not my job to say who’s right or wrong, but I would
say, Mr. Secretary, that if you’re right, you would unfortunately need the
restoration of the monarchy to get your plan through, because the House
Republicans aren’t going to adopt a new WPA program.”
The Rest of the
No. 3 story last week, Middle East unrest, remained focused on Libya and the
aftermath of the October 20 death of Gaddafi. While most of the coverage
consisted of straight news accounts of the burial of Gaddafi’s body and that of
his son, questions persisted about the way Gaddafi was killed. Those
questions—combined with the report that 53 Gaddafi supporters were found dead
by execution in Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and accounts of Libyans filing
through a walk-in freezer to see Gaddafi’s body on display— generated some
media attention to the behavior and tactics of the victorious Libyan rebels.
end of the week brought what seemed to be good news after a long series of
warnings about the Greek debt crisis. The No. 4 story of the week, the European
economy, consisted largely of reports about an emergency European Union summit
on the situation in Greece. The bailout plan that emerged rallied U.S. stocks,
and at least a few outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, reported on the
bailout plan’s impact on the Dow Jones.
7.3-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey on October 24, killing hundreds and
wounding thousands, making it the worst earthquake there in a decade. It was
the No. 5 story last week, with news outlets tracking the growing number of
dead and wounded, yet also featuring stories of heroic rescues and
Newsmakers of the
top five newsmakers from October 24-30 were the same as the week before, though
the order of prominence was slightly different.
due to coverage of his mortgage-relief program announcement, Barack Obama was
the top newsmaker during the week of October 24-30, featured prominently in 7%
of stories studied. That was down from 11% the week
before, but right in line with his level in the two weeks before that, when he
was also the dominant newsmaker in 7% of stories.
Obama came three Republican candidates for president—Rick Perry (5%), Herman
Cain (4%), and Mitt Romney (3%).
those three was Muammar Gaddafi, a dominant newsmaker in 2% of stories studied.
Gaddafi was the No. 2 newsmaker the week before, when he was the subject of 10%
About the NCI
PEJ’s weekly News Coverage Index
examines the news agenda of 52 different outlets from five sectors of the
media: print, online, network TV, cable and radio. (See List of Outlets.)
The weekly study, which includes some 1,000 stories, is designed to provide
news consumers, journalists and researchers with hard data about what stories and
topics the media are covering, the trajectories of that media narrative and
differences among news platforms. The percentages are based on
"newshole," or the space devoted to each subject in print and online
and time on radio and TV. (See Our Methodology.) In addition, these reports also include a rundown of the
week’s leading newsmakers, a designation given to people who account for at
least 50% of a given story.
Jesse Holcomb of PEJ