Controversies, Not Commemorations, Make 9/11 News
19.4% - Biggest Week of 9/11-related news in the past five years
Coverage related to the events of 9/11/2001 has become a staple of the news agenda, often timed around the anniversary of the terrorist attacks. But in recent years, bitter controversies involving Islam—rather than remembrances or commemorations—have driven that 9/11 coverage.
The biggest week of 9/11-related coverage since PEJ began tracking news in January 2007 occurred from September 6-12, 2010, when the subject accounted for 19.4% of the newshole. But it was media attention to Terry Jones—the pastor of a small church in Florida who threatened to burn the Koran on 9/11—that accounted for 70% of that coverage. Remembrances and dedications surrounding the anniversary accounted for just 30%.
The controversy over building an Islamic Center near Ground Zero has also generated significant attention in recent years. The No. 2 week of 9/11-connected coverage occurred from August 16-22, 2010, when President Obama seemed to offer a message of support for the project. The mosque debate filled 14.7% of the newshole that week. One week later (August 23-29), the same subject accounted for 6.1% of the overall newshole, making it the third-biggest week of 9/11-related attention.
One distinctly different kind of 9/11 story registered as No. 8 on the list, at 3.4%, the week of December 20-26, 2010. It was the passage of the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act which provides health monitoring and financial aid to 9/11 responders and was approved only after considerable political skirmishing and a GOP filibuster.
This list also does not include one other major event that ended up as the biggest single-week story since PEJ began the News Coverage Index. The killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by Navy Seals generated 69% of the overall coverage from May 2-8, 2011.
Tricia Sartor of PEJ