January 27, 2010

Barack Obama — News Coverage of His First Year

Number of Stories
Economic Crisis 1202
Obama Admin. 1200
Health Care 890
Afghan- istan 489
Domestic Terror 327
G-20 EuropeTrip 232
Cairo Speech 183
Iran 180
Obama Wins Nobel 111
Gates Arrest 96

31% – Percentage of stories prominently  featuring Obama that focused on the economic crisis or health care debate

Although President Barack Obama had an ambitious agenda during his first year in office, two key policy issues stood out in the media—his handling of the economic crisis and health care reform.  From January 21, 2009–January 20, 2010, Obama was a lead newsmaker (meaning that at least 50% of the story was about him) in 1202 stories about the economic crisis and 890 health care reform stories, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index. Combined, these two policy issues accounted for 31% of all the stories in which the President was a dominant figure.  

The war in Afghanistan and attempts to combat domestic terrorism were the next most-prominent topics involving President Obama. His plan to shift military focus from Iraq to Afghanistan generated 489 stories with him as a newsmaker. There were 327 stories about domestic terrorism and prevention and these were overwhelmingly centered on Obama’s plan to close the detention camp at the Guantanamo Bay facility.  

But not all stories about the new president were policy-oriented. Stories about the Obama family, his top appointments, evaluations of his leadership and other references to his governing style generated 1200 of the stories in which the President was a main figure. Not surprisingly, attention to the new president’s administration was the second-biggest storyline in which the president was a lead newsmaker.

Other stories prominently featuring Obama include his trip to Europe and the G-20 summit in April 2009 (232); his June 4 speech in Cairo to the Muslim world (183); diplomacy and involvement with Iran (180); winning the Nobel Peace Prize (111) and the controversy that followed the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates (96).

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ