February 9, 2011

Dateline—Middle East

Overall Sectors Cable Network Breakdown
Online 76
Newspaper 70
Network TV 58
Cable Overall 31
CNN 45
FOX 16

45%Percentage of Mideast unrest stories reported from that region in the past two weeks

The protests throughout the Middle East, and most notably Egypt, have registered as the No. 1 news story over the past two weeks, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index. They accounted for 20% of the newshole from January 24-30 and then a whopping 56% from January 31-February 6, making it the biggest international story in a single week since PEJ began tracking this in January 2007.

One reason for the extraordinary level of coverage thus far has been journalists’ access to the scenes of protests and violence in Egypt that they have transmitted to U.S. news audiences. That has been borne out by this finding from the News Coverage Index: In the past two weeks—from January 24-February 6—almost half (45%) of all the stories about the unrest studied by PEJ have been reported directly from Egypt and neighboring countries.

Most of the other Mideast reporting in the last two weeks  came from the major U.S. news hubs—28% from New York and 22% from Washington DC.

A breakdown of coverage by media sector reveals some differences in the amount of on-scene reporting. More than three-quarters (76%) of the online Mideast stories studied by PEJ originated from the area, as did 70% of the front-page newspaper stories. Much of this reporting came from the major newspapers, while smaller papers and websites without a robust reporting team relied heavily on wire services.

The three major networks sent some of their biggest names to the region—CBS anchor Katie Couric, NBC anchor Brian Williams and ABC “This Week” host Christiane Amanpour—and 58% of all the Middle East unrest stories on network  news in the past two weeks were reported from the area. 

Cable news, which devotes considerable time to in-studio talk shows, had a lower percentage of stories reported from the region, at 31%. But there was a significant variation between the channels. While 45% of the CNN stories studied by PEJ originated from the Mideast, that number was 26% for MSNBC and 16% for Fox.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ