April 30, 2009

Torture Tactics Top News

Domestic Terrorism
CIA Memo Backlash Apr 20 2009 21
Obama Says Close Gitmo Apr 13 2009 8
CIA Memo Released Apr 13 2009 7
CIA Tapes Destroyed Dec 9 2007 7
bin Laden Driver Trial Aug 4 2008 6
al-Qaeda Strengthened Jul 15 2007 6
KSM Confesses Mar 11 2007 6

21%–Amount of coverage of U.S. anti-terror efforts from April 20–26

Since PEJ launched its News Coverage Index in January 2007, coverage of the nation’s efforts to fight terrorism has filled just 2% of the overall newshole. And in those 28 months, the topic has exceeded 5% of the weekly newshole only seven times. But coverage skyrocketed after April 16 when President Obama released CIA memos detailing interrogation methods used on suspected terrorists. The story emerged the week of April 13-19, but picked up more momentum last week when some critics said the administration was letting torture go unpunished and others argued the memos never should have been made public.

With that debate driving coverage, the story was bigger than the economic crisis and filled 21% of the newshole from April 20-26—making it by far the biggest week of coverage of the nation’s anti-terror efforts.

The next biggest week was January 19-25, 2009, when news that Obama had ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and banned cruel interrogation methods filled 8% of the newshole. Next, at 7%, were the initial release of the CIA memos (April 13–19, 2009), and the CIA admission that tapes containing footage of harsh interrogation tactics were destroyed (December 9-14, 2008).

Other significant weekly spikes in terrorism coverage included the trial of Osama bin Laden’s driver (Aug 4-10, 2008), Khalid Sheikh Mohammed admitting involvement in the 9/11 attacks (March 11 – 16, 2007) and national intelligence estimates that al-Qaeda was regaining strength (July 15 – 20, 2007). All three stories each filled 6% of the weekly newshole.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ