September 24, 2009

Which Lawmakers are also Headline Makers?

Jan. 1 – Sept. 20, 2009 # of Stories
Ted Kennedy 324
Roland Burris 242
Nancy Pelosi 185
Arlen Specter 127
Al Franken 95
Joe Wilson 69

6th -Rank of Rep. Joe Wilson among top legislative newsmakers of 2009

If much of America had never heard of Joe Wilson before September 9, that changed with his “you lie” shout during Barack Obama’s speech on health care. Last week, Wilson was the subject of even more media attention as his House colleagues voted to rebuke him for the episode. The attention of the last two weeks (Wilson was the “lead newsmaker” in 69 of the roughly 2,600 stories PEJ studied in that time) was enough to rank Wilson as the sixth-leading Capitol Hill newsmaker in 2009. He is also the year’s second-leading newsmaker in the House of Representatives and the most covered Republican in Congress. (A lead newsmaker is someone is featured in at least 50% of a story.)

That still leaves Wilson, however, well behind the most-covered legislator in 2009. That was the late Senator Edward Kennedy (lead newsmaker in 324 stories), whose August 25 death from a brain tumor dominated the news that week. The year’s second leading newsmaker in Congress (242 stories) was Senator Roland Burris who was selected—amid great controversy—to fill Obama’s senate seat by indicted former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The third-leading Capitol Hill newsmaker (185 stories) was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Next on the list of top newsmaking lawmakers were two senators who generated big political headlines. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican facing a re-election campaign in 2010, announced in April he was switching to the Democratic side of the aisle. He’s been a lead newsmaker in 127 stories this year. The No. 5 newsmaker was former comedian Al Franken (95 stories), the newly elected Democratic Senator from Minnesota who was sworn in this past July after being declared the winner of a contested election ultimately decided in that state’s Supreme Court.

Mark Jurkowitz of PEJ