November 11, 2010

Media Coverage of U.S. Terror Plots

% of Newshole
Christmas bomber 12/28/2009- 1/3/2010 23.3
Times Square plot 5/3-9/2010 21
Fort Hood massacre 11/2-8/2009 14.9
New York subway plot 9/21-27/2009 7.7
Fort Dix attack 5/6-11/2007 6.5
Cargo bomb plot 10/25-31/2010 5.4

6th – Rank of the cargo bomb plot among most-covered U.S. terror cases since 2007 

The Yemen terror plot to detonate explosive devices aboard planes headed for the U.S. has generated significant coverage since the attack was foiled on October 29. The episode, involving bombs experts say may have been within hours of exploding over the eastern U.S., filled 5.4% of the newshole the week of October 25-31. That made it the sixth most-covered terror plot involving the U.S. since PEJ began its News Coverage Index in January 2007.

Attention to the story also remained high the week of November 1-7 (5%) as more details of the failed attack emerged.  

But that recent near miss attracted only a fraction of the media coverage of the No. 1 terror plot story since January 2007. On December 25, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called Christmas Day bomber, attempted to detonate explosives sewn into his underwear on a plane bound for Detroit. But a foul smell and smoke alerted crew members and passengers who subdued Abdulmutallab. That story filled 23.3% of the newshole the week of December 28-Janaury 3, 2010.

The No. 2 terror story occurred when Pakistani American Faisal Shahzad tried but failed to detonate an SUV in crowded Times Square on May 1, 2010. That episode filled 21% of the newshole the week of May 3-9, 2010.

The third-biggest story was the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who allegedly opened fire at the Fort Hood Army post, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others on November 5, 2009. That massacre filled 14.9% of the newshole the week of November 2-8, 2009.

That was followed, in the No. 4 slot, by the saga of Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan immigrant planning to attack New York’s subway system, which filled 7.7% from September 21-27, 2009.  And the fifth-biggest terror plot story was the arrest of six men who were planning an assault on the Fort Dix army base in New Jersey on May 8, 2007. From May 6-11, 2007, that story filled 6.5% of the newshole.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ