June 30, 2010

McChrystal Tops List of Military Newsmakers

# of Stories
Stanley McChrystal 272
Nidal Malik Hasan 268
Robert Gates 208
David Petraeus 75
Mike Mullen 65
Bowe Bergdahl 42

4:1 – Roughly the ratio of stories featuring McChrystal to stories featuring Petreaus from January 2009 through June 27, 2010. 

Gen. Stanley McChrystal was thrust into the media spotlight when comments he and his staff made to Rolling Stone sparked a surge of controversy and cost the general his job as head of NATO forces in Afghanistan. The week of June 21-27, McChrystal was a lead newsmaker in 108 of the stories sampled in PEJ’s News Coverage Index. (To be a lead newsmaker a person must be referred to in at least 50% of the story.) Only President Barack Obama (126 stories) generated more coverage during that week.

McChrystal also attracted significant attention in September 2009 when he requested additional troops to fight the insurgency in Afghanistan. The controversial troop surge kept the war and the commander in the spotlight through December when Obama agreed to a scaled-down troop increase.

In all, there have been 272 stories in which McChrystal was a lead newsmaker from January 1,  2009 through June 27, 2010. This level of attention makes the general the most covered U.S. military figure during that period.

McChrystal’s boss, Gen. David Petraeus, who was chosen to replace him in Afghanistan, generated just one-quarter of the attention—75 stories—in that period.

Petraeus, who gained prominence as the commander of multi-national forces in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, made headlines again last week when he was chosen to succeed McChrystal (35 stories the week of June 21-27). The only other time in the period Petraeus generated significant news was when he fainted at the June 15 senate hearing on Afghanistan. Still these two events made him the fourth most-covered military figure since January 2009 (75 stories).

Just behind Gen. McChrystal is Nidal Malik Hasan (268 stories), a U.S. Army Major who killed 13 people at Fort Hood military base on November 5, 2009. Other top military newsmakers include Defense Secretary Robert Gates (208 stories), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen (65 stories) and U.S. Army Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl (42 stories), who was captured by the Taliban in June 2009.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ