April 22, 2009

The Dog Days of Spring

Bo Obama Other Big Stories
Bo Obama 24
North Korea 23
Sandra Cantu 19
Iraq War 16
John Madden 12
Afghanistan 12

3:2 – Ratio of last week’s coverage of First Dog Bo compared to the Iraq War

On April 14, reporters and photographers swarmed the White House grounds, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Obamas’ new pet. They caught every step of the first family walking Bo, their six-month-old Portuguese Water Dog, who was a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy. The event prompted all sorts of stories, ranging from a historical look at former presidential pets to the simmering controversy over the Obamas not getting a rescued dog from a shelter. In all, Bo Obama was the focus of two dozen stories the week of April 13-19, 2009, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index.

While that doesn’t put Bo’s debut among the top-five stories of the week, he did attract more press attention than many other significant events. The 24 stories about Bo topped coverage of the war in Iraq, which generated 16 stories. (That included a suicide bombing that resulted in the deaths of five American soldiers.) Bo also received more coverage than North Korea’s decision to ask nuclear inspectors to leave the country (23 stories), new developments in the gruesome murder of eight-year-old Sandra Cantu (19 stories), retiring NFL commentator John Madden (12 stories) and the ongoing and escalating war in Afghanistan (12 stories).  

Despite Bo’s celebrity, attention to his arrival was short lived, diminishing significantly by late in the week. And it was far from the top story of the week. Many events far outpaced coverage of Bo including the economic crisis (237 stories), the Somali pirate saga (191 stories), and issues relating to domestic terrorism, which included the release of memos detailing controversial interrogation techniques (74 stories). 

Tricia Sartor of PEJ