October 26, 2011

Iraq Coverage Reaches a New Low in 2011

% of Iraq Coverage
Jan 2007 24.9
Feb 21.9
Mar 19.7
Apr 15.7
May 18.8
Jun 9.8
Jul 15.5
Aug 10.4
Sep 23.2
Oct 12
Nov 7.7
Dec 6.2
Jan 2008 3.7
Feb 3.3
Mar 8.3
Apr 6.9
May 3
Jun 3.4
Jul 5.2
Aug 3.3
Sep 1.5
Oct 1.7
Nov 2.5
Dec 2.1
Jan 2009 2.2
Feb 3.2
Mar 1.8
Apr 1.7
May 1.6
Jun 1.6
Jul 1.9
Aug 2
Sep 1.1
Oct 1.1
Nov 1.1
Dec 2
Jan 2010 0.8
Feb 0.6
Mar 1.7
Apr 1.6
May 0.8
Jun 0.4
Jul 1
Aug 5.2
Sep 1.5
Oct 0.5
Nov 0.9
Dec 0.6
Jan 2011 0.7
Feb 0.5
Mar 0.2
Apr 0.1
May 0.4
Jun 0.9
Jul 0.6
Aug 0.4
Sep 0.6
Oct 1.7

96% – Drop in media coverage of the Iraq War from 2007 to 2011

President Obama’s announcement, on October 21, that all troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year, made news by formally marking the end of that conflict. It also evoked surprise and criticism from those who fear the country could fall into the hands of extremists or under Iranian influence.

The timetable was not entirely new. Three years ago, President George Bush signed a treaty setting December 31, 2011 as the target date for full withdrawal of U.S. troops, and Obama made that deadline part of his campaign for president.

But the decision for complete withdrawal went further than some expected. It also made Iraq a major story, something it had not been in more than a year.

Coverage of the Iraq War developments accounted for 4.6% of the newshole last week (October 17-23) making it the highest week of Iraq War coverage since August 30-September 5, 2010 when the final combat troops were removed from Iraq. That earlier announcement drew nearly twice as much media attention—8.4%–as last week’s decision.

Last week’s jump in coverage runs counter to a long and clear trend. Media attention to the war has declined dramatically since the News Coverage Index began measuring it back in January 2007.

Iraq was the top story overall in 2007, accounting for 15.4% of the newshole that year, according to PEJ’s analysis, as Congress and President Bush battled for control of Iraq policy. But as the U.S. drew down troops, and the domestic policy debate subsided, American media outlets also withdrew reporters from Iraq, and attention to the war has declined by more than 95% percent since 2007. For 2011 so far, the Iraq has filled 0.6% of the newshole, less than the attention to the trial of Casey Anthony or the Mexican Drug War.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ