|Free Speech, Race Rulings June 24, 07||5.9|
|DC Gun Ban June 23, 08||5|
|Right to Hanbeas Corpus June 9, 08||5|
|Souter to Retire April 27, 09||4.8|
|Partial Birth Abortion Ban April 15, 08||3|
|Exxon Valdez, Rape Ruling June 23, 08||2.9|
4th – Rank of David Souter’s retirement among top High Court stories.
Even in a busy week that included swine flu, Barack Obama’s 100-day anniversary and the Chrysler bankruptcy, Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s May 1 retirement announcement commanded major attention. Filling 4.8% of the weekly newshole, it was the No. 6 story from April 27-May 3, 2009. A look at other Supreme Court events—some of which made news on their own and some of which triggered bigger policy debates—has the Souter announcement ranking fourth among most-covered Court storylines since PEJ’s News Coverage Index began in January 2007. On that roster of top stories, Souter’s retirement was the only one that did not involve a decision by the Justices.
The biggest week of Supreme Court coverage was June 24-29, 2007, when it made several significant free speech rulings and limited the use of race to determine school placement. Those decisions accounted for 5.8% of the newshole, making it the week’s No. 3 story. The next biggest story, at 5.0% of the newshole, was coverage of and fallout from the Court’s move to strike down the Washington D.C. gun ban the week of June 23–29, 2008. That proved to be a busy week for coverage as rulings that eliminated the death penalty in child rape cases and decreased punitive damages owed by Exxon for the Valdez controversy filled another 2.9% of the newshole.
The Supreme Court’s ruling that Guantanamo Bay detainees have a right to challenge their detentions, and the reaction to that decision, accounted for 5.0% of the newshole the week of June 9-15, 2008. And its vote to uphold the ban on partial birth abortions and the subsequent fallout accounted for 3.0% of the coverage from April 15-20, 2007.
Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ