May 5, 2010

Arizona Puts Immigration in the News

Immigration News
Arizona Law Apr 26- May 2, 10 16
Final Reform Vote Jun 24-29, 07 12
Bush Pushes Reform Jun 10-15, 07 11
Senate Debates Bill May 20-25, 07 10
Senators Agree on Bill May 13-18, 07 9
First Vote on Bill June 3-8, 07 9

#1 – Where the new Arizona law ranks among biggest weeks of immigration coverage since 2007

On April 23, Arizona’s governor signed a law requiring police to check the status of persons suspected of being in the country illegally. That state law quickly became a national issue. Supporters say it was a necessary step in controlling the violence perpetrated by illegal aliens. Opponents argue that it encourages racial profiling and have called for a boycott of the state. And for the week of April 26-May 2, that raging debate filled 16% of the newshole.

This level of coverage made immigration the No. 3 story that week (behind the economic crisis, 23%, and the gulf oil spill, also at 16%). And it was easily biggest week of immigration news since PEJ began the News Coverage Index in January 2007.

The only other time the immigration issue has come close to generating this level of coverage was in May and June of 2007 when then-President George W. Bush pushed for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act. In the six week period from May 13-June 29, immigration reform was a top-five story each week.

Indeed, five out of the top six weeks of immigration coverage since January 2007 occurred in that period when the issue was at the center of a heated legislative fight—highlighting a trend we have seen with such stories as the health care debate and the economy. Coverage tends to increase dramatically when the narrative features a Beltway battle.

PEJ saw the first spike in immigration coverage the week of May 13-18, 2007, when a group or  senators agreed on the outlines of a bill that would provide ‘Z-visas’ and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Coverage filled 9% of the newshole that week. The following week, from May 20-25, the Senate began debate on the bill and the topic generated 10% of the overall coverage. The week of June 3-8, when the bill was defeated in the Senate, the subject accounted for another 9% of the newshole.

President Bush then pushed to revive the measure and the issue registered at 11% from June 10-15, 2007. But when the bill made it back to the Senate floor for a vote on June 28, it suffered its final defeat. Coverage of the immigration reform bill peaked that week, June 24-29, at 12% of the newshole.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ