June 11, 2008

How Big Was McClellan's Tell All?

George Bush
Eliot Spitzer
Ted Kennedy
Pope Benedict
Scott McClellan

#5-McClellan’s rank among the top (non-campaign) newsmakers of 2008. 

The identity of the No. 1 newsmaker in 2008—for all stories not involving the presidential campaign—is not hard to guess. Even in his final year in office, President Georg Bush was the primary figure (appearing in at least 50% of a story) in 540 stories between Jan. 1 and June 8. What might be more surprising is the identity of the No. 5 newsmaker, someone who had been living in near-obscurity until his tell-all tome turned him from Bush loyalist to vocal critic.

Scott McClellan departed as Bush’s press secretary and exited the public spotlight in May 2006. But he returned with a splash two years later with a book critical of the administration’s conduct in the run-up to the Iraq war. For many Bush foes, McClellan’s change of heart was welcome. But for others, including ex-colleagues, the reaction was quite different. (Former presidential aide Karl Rove said McClellan sounded like a “left-wing blogger.”) The book battle makes McClellan, who appeared as a primary figure in 108 stories, the fifth-biggest newsmaker of the year. And the spotlight will shine on him again when he testifies before Congress regarding the Valerie Plame “outing” case.

The second-biggest newsmaker of the year (in non-election stories) no doubt wishes he was not on the list. Ex-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s sex-with-prostitutes scandal generated enough media attention to make him a primary figure in 173 stories. The coverage of Ted Kennedy’s recently diagnosed cancer accounted for 157 stories; which placed him third. In the fourth spot is Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope was a leading newsmaker in 141 stories, the majority of which centered on his April visit to the U.S.