May 13, 2009

Talk Shows Pass on Af-Pak

Pakistan Afghanistan Af-Pak Meeting in DC
Media Overall 5.3 3.2 3.1
Online 6.7 4.3 6.1
Newspaper 7.1 2.6 1.5
Network TV 4.5 2.2 3.1
Talk Shows 0.3 0.9 2.1

3.3% – Amount of Afghanistan/ Pakistan coverage on cable and radio talk shows

With the violence increasing and the geopolitical stakes rising, the so-called “Af-Pak” crisis was a major story last week. The conflict in Pakistan, where government forces battled the Taliban, filled 5.3% of the newshole from May 4-10. The fighting in Afghanistan, including reports that U.S. air strikes killed numerous civilians, accounted for another 3.2%. And the meeting in Washington between Barack Obama, Pakistani President Asif Zardari and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai filled another 3.1%. Combined, the subject accounted for 11.6% of the newshole from May 4-10, 2009—quadrupling the coverage of the two countries since the beginning of the year.

The strategic challenges posed by Afghanistan and Pakistan generated substantial attention last week in a number of media sectors. The subject accounted for 17.1% of the coverage online, the platform that generally devotes the most coverage to international events. Newspapers devoted 11.2% of the front-page coverage studied to the issue. On network news, the Af-Pak stories filled 9.8% of the newshole.  

Yet, the events of the week barely made it onto the radar screen on the cable and radio talk shows—outlets often driven by debate and ideology that tend not to focus on overseas news. In the PEJ sample of eight prime-time cable talk shows and five commercial talk radio programs, the fighting in Pakistan filled only .3% of the time studied, the conflict in Afghanistan filled only .9% and the White House summit accounted for 2.1%. Combined coverage of the three stories filled just 3.3% of the talk show newshole, less than a third of that in the media overall.  Notably, the talkers paid the most attention to the Washington-based storyline, the White House meeting of the three leaders, the thread that got the least coverage in the media in general.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ