September 25, 2008

The Market Meltdown

Percent of Financial Crisis Stories
Presidential CandidatesReact 33.8
Overall Financial Crisis 26.1
AIG Bailout 10.8
Lehman Brothers 7.2
Effects on Avg. Americans 5.5
Stock Market 4.7
Who is to Balme 2.8
Merrill Lynch 1.3

34%—Coverage of the economic crisis related to presidential candidates

The week of Sept. 15-21 brought dramatic news of a potential meltdown of the nation’s economy. The collapse of Lehman Brothers, the buyout of Merrill Lynch and the bailout of AIG revealed that the credit crisis was spinning out of control. In response, the Bush Administration announced a $700 billion bailout plan designed to secure financial institutions and buy mortgage- backed debt weighing down the economy.

Given this complex, multi-faceted event, several storylines emerged in the press last week. And none was more prominent than the impact on the 2008 presidential race. According to PEJ’s News Coverage Index for Sept. 15-21, the single biggest theme was Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s response to the crisis. That accounted for one-third of the stories (33.8%) about the economic meltdown.

But there were other narratives that also generated significant attention. Stories about how the crisis began and its broader impact on the economy accounted for about a quarter (26.1%) of last week’s economic coverage. Attention to the AIG bailout came next, at 10.8%, and the collapse of Lehman Brothers was at 7.2%. The impact on average Americans accounted for 5.5% and the wild fluctuations of the market were next, at 4.7%. One storyline that may get more attention as lawmakers tackle a bailout plan, the question of who is to blame for the crisis, registered at 3% of the stories last week.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ