News stories focused on support for same-sex marriage outnumbered those opposing it by roughly 5-to-1 in the two months marked by Supreme Court deliberations on the issue, according to the latest study in Pew Research's LGBT in Changing Times series. Did statements of support vary by media sector? Did reactions on Twitter differ from the news media? How was the topic covered in LGBT outlets? The new study offers answers.
News Coverage Conveys Strong Momentum for Same-Sex Marriage
Obama enjoyed a surge of positive news coverage the last week of the campaign—one of his best weeks in months—in the wake of new polls and Superstorm Sandy. How did Mitt Romney fare? Was the tone of the conversation different on social media than in the mainstream press? A new report offers answers.
The Final Days of the Media Campaign 2012
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both received more negative than positive coverage from the news media in the eight weeks since the conventions, but Obama has had an edge overall, a new PEJ study finds. The report also examines how the candidates fared in different media outlets, the tone of the conversation on social media and offers comparisons to 2008 campaign coverage.
Winning the Media Campaign 2012
With the election less than two weeks away, Americans are following the presidential campaign more closely on nearly every news platform than they were earlier in the year, including print newspapers. The biggest gains have come on the internet-both to the websites of traditional news sources and those native to the web.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are growing especially rapidly as a source of political news. The number of Americans who say they regularly go to these destinations to learn about the campaign has doubled since January. Even with that jump, however, these leading social media platforms are still turned to by a relatively limited number of Americans, about 17% in all, when those who mentioned at least one of those platforms are combined.
When asked which sources of campaign news had been "most useful," nearly half of Americans named television in one of its various forms. Cable news was first on that list, named as the most useful source by 24%; a little more than a quarter volunteered various forms of the internet, while a third as many named local or national newspapers (8%) or radio (6%).
These are among the findings of a new survey of Americans about how they are learning about the election conducted October 18-21 among 1,005 adults nationwide by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The numbers portray a diverse landscape in which no platform dominates as the place for politics, and the vast majority of Americans say they regularly rely on multiple platforms to get political information. Just 6% said they turn regularly to just one platform.
Cable news channels continue to have the furthest reach, but a number of other destinations are close. Currently, 41% of Americans say they regularly learn about the candidates or the campaign from cable news networks, up five percentage points from 36% during the primaries.
But local TV news is almost as popular as a means for learning about the campaign; 38% of Americans regularly use it to learn about the candidates and the election, up six points since the primaries.
That is now nearly matched by the internet, which has seen an increase of 11 points in the number of Americans who say they regularly turn to it for campaign news since the year began. Fully 36% of Americans say they regularly get election news there, up from 25% in January.
Yet nearly as many-31% of Americans-regularly get information about the candidates and the campaign from national evening network newscasts; it was 26% during the primaries.
Local and national newspapers have also seen their audiences grow. Altogether, 30% say they regularly read one of these two types of newspapers for campaign news; 23% regularly turn to their local daily newspapers, up from 20% in January; 13% turn to national newspapers, up from 8% in January.
The Pew Research Center traditionally asks Americans about their sources of campaign news at the beginning of each presidential election. Back in January, those surveys found that with contested primaries in just one party, the long-term declines seen in several traditional sources such as newspapers, local TV and network news had steepened.
The new survey was conducted to examine media consumption behavior about the campaign during the general election phase, both to benchmark that time period for the first time, and to see whether there were patterns in a changing media landscape.
Beyond traditional news sources and digital destinations, other forms of media have also established a role in the political information ecosystem, though some of these so-called alternative forms may have stabilized or even shrunk in popularity.
About one-in-ten Americans, 12%, regularly get news from comedy programs such as The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live or The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Up from 9% in January, it is now on par with public radio and national newspapers.
Cable talk programs also play a sizable part in the political dialogue. Fully 18% said they regularly got political information there, up from 15% in January. But there is also evidence that role of cable talk might be smaller than it was some years ago. In January 2004, for instance, a combined total of 44% of Americans said they regularly or sometimes watched the shows for campaign information. In January, that number was 34%. Now it is 35%. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who said they never watch cable talk shows has risen from 38% in 2004 to 47% today. This possible downward trend in the broad audience for cable talk, moreover, stands in contrast to the trend for cable news in general, which has been among the most stable in audience reach of the older news platforms.
The number of Americans who say they turn to radio talk for campaign information also changed little from January and has declined from several years ago. In all, 16% said they regularly turn to figures such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on the radio for election information, unchanged since the primaries. Another 19% do so sometimes, also unchanged from January. But in January 2004, 46% said they regularly or sometimes got campaign information from talk radio. The total now comes to 35%.
Where People Go Online for Election News
The survey then probed more deeply into where on the internet people go for campaign news on a regular basis. More said they turn to the websites or apps of traditional news organizations than to online-only sites or apps (28% of Americans who are online versus 19%).
And while social media, which draws on many sources for the information, remains relatively small, it is growing rapidly as a means for getting political news. Currently, 12% of those online say they regularly use Facebook to get campaign news, more than double the 6% who said so in January. That number represents 21% of those who use social networks.
YouTube is a regular source for campaign news for 7% of Americans, also more than double the 3% who said so in January, when the campaign involved primaries just in the GOP.
Twitter has also doubled to 4%, but remains the smallest of the three main social media formats. But when those on Twitter are asked about whether they use the platform for campaign news, the numbers become much larger. Fully 25% of those on Twitter use it regularly for campaign news. In January, 17% of those on Twitter used it regularly for political information.
Which Sources Are Most Useful
With such a complex network of platforms and sources to choose from, the nuance of how and when people seek out different places for information about the election becomes much more difficult to understand. The concept of a primary source of news-a gatekeeper that provides most of what a voter might know-seems obsolete.
To get at some sense of value, the survey asked people to name the source, out of those they turned to regularly, which had been "most helpful" to them overall.
The answers showed the continuing power of television in general to let people see events, but also the increasing influence of convenience, breadth and depth of the web.
In all, 49% volunteered some form of television as their most helpful source in providing campaign news, combining local, network and cable together. Cable led the way among these, with fully 26% of Americans naming cable news in general (24%) or cable talk shows in particular (2%). The other two major television sources-network nightly newscasts and local TV news-were both mentioned as most helpful by 11%.
About half as many as named a television source mentioned an internet one (28%). That puts the internet in a tie with cable news as the most helpful medium for campaign news.
Most of these people volunteered the internet in general as the medium they consider most helpful, but some specified particular destinations; 4% mentioned Facebook, 3% the websites of traditional news organizations, 2% web-only sources, and 1% YouTube videos or Twitter.
Newspapers were named by just 8% of Americans as the most helpful source for learning about the candidates and the election (5% said local papers and 3% said national ones).
And 4% mentioned public radio as the most helpful source for learning about the campaign.
Comedy programs were tied with Twitter and YouTube at 1%.
About the Survey
The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted October 18-21, 2012, among a national sample of 1,005 adults 18 years of age or older living in the continental United States (601 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 404 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 224 who had no landline telephone). The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. A combination of landline and cell phone random digit dial samples were used; both samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were conducted in English. Respondents in the landline sample were selected by randomly asking for the youngest adult male or female who is now at home. Interviews in the cell sample were conducted with the person who answered the phone, if that person was an adult 18 years of age or older. For detailed information about our survey methodology, see: http://people-press.org/methodology/.
The combined landline and cell phone sample are weighted using an iterative technique that matches gender, age, education, race, Hispanic origin and region to parameters from the March 2011 Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and population density to parameters from the Decennial Census. The sample also is weighted to match current patterns of telephone status, based on extrapolations from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey. The weighting procedure also accounts for the fact that respondents with both landline and cell phones have a greater probability of being included in the combined sample and adjusts for household size among respondents with a landline phone. Sampling errors and statistical tests of significance take into account the effect of weighting. The following table shows the unweighted sample sizes and the error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for different groups in the survey:
Sample sizes and sampling errors for other subgroups are available upon request.
In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.
© Pew Research Center, 2012
As the candidates for president reintroduced themselves at their conventions and began the last phase of the campaign, they received markedly different treatment in social media than in the mainstream press, a new study finds.
The conversation on Twitter, blogs and Facebook about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama during this key period changed little with events-even during the two candidates' own nominating conventions. The conversation in all of these platforms was also consistently negative, according to the study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
In the mainstream media, by contrast, both Romney and Obama received a version of the traditional convention bounce, with coverage about them becoming more positive during the week of their party's nationally televised gathering.
The media portrait of this key month in the campaign is consistent with what PEJ has seen in social media throughout the campaign. Whether it would prove true in other campaigns cannot be known. But the differences raise a question about whether social media may make what Americans hear about politics more negative and may make it harder for political actors, particularly those trailing in the polls, to alter the media narrative.
On Twitter, for instance, the percentage of negative discourse about Romney was identical during the two convention weeks-and made up the majority of assertions. The level of positive discourse, meanwhile, varied by just two points between the two weeks. On Facebook, the numbers barely budged. There was a more noticeable shift in tone during the conventions, though modest, on blogs.
During his convention, Obama received a modest improvement in the tone of the conversation about him on Twitter, and somewhat less on Facebook and blogs, but the tone in all three venues remained consistently negative.
In the mainstream press, by contrast, positive stories about Romney during his convention outnumbered negative ones by about two-to-one. Obama's positive stories outnumbered his negative ones, by a somewhat smaller margin, during the Democratic convention.
The study also finds that generally more of the discourse has been focused on Obama rather than on Romney. The President has been the subject of more Twitter traffic, more YouTube viewings, more blog and Facebook conversation and even more mainstream news coverage. The only time that changed noticeably-and was likely unwanted-was on Twitter the week that a video surfaced in which Romney derided the 47% of Americans who do not pay income tax.
These are among the results of one-month study of the tone of discourse across 52 mainstream media outlets, the full range of conversation on Twitter, a large sampling on Facebook and in blogs, as well as a measure of traffic on YouTube.
The study examined the tone and volume of news coverage and social media conversation from August 27 to September 23 across a wide range of media platforms. Human researchers studied 1,084 stories in 52 mainstream media outlets-from television, print, radio and news websites. And a combination of human coding combined with computer software from the company Crimson Hexagon analyzed more than 18 million posts on Twitter, 323,000 on Facebook, and 690,000 on blogs. In addition, researchers examined the traffic to key videos of the candidates on YouTube during the same period.
The week of the GOP convention, from August 27-September 2, fully 59% of the Twitter assertions about Romney were negative while 17% were positive. The following week, when the Democrats held their convention, Romney's numbers were virtually the same, again 59% negative and 19% positive.
These figures for Twitter reinforce what PEJ has seen throughout the campaign season about this growing social media platform. For every single one of the 16 weeks studied since June 4, the tone of the conversation about Romney has been negative-by a differential of at least 34 points.
The settled tone of that dialogue is reflected in the fact that during the week of September 17-23, when the damaging 47% video surfaced, the numbers were nearly the same as the week of Romney's convention, when Republicans were putting out their most positive messages about the candidate. The week of the video, 62% of the Twitter conversation about Romney was negative, and 14% positive.
Obama did enjoy some bounce on Twitter from his convention, but that proved ephemeral. The week of the Democratic convention, from September 3-9, Obama could boast that the gap between positive assertions about him (31%) and negative assertions (42%) narrowed to 11 points, about half of what it had been the week before when he was being rhetorically pummeled at the GOP convention.
Since then the Twitter conversation about Obama has returned to levels typical of what PEJ has seen throughout the general election period, with negative assertions exceeding positive ones about the president by about 20 points.
And with the exception of the week of the Democratic convention, the tone of Twitter conversation about Obama has been more negative than positive each week since June by a differential of at least 19 points.
The conversation about the candidates on blogs has also been highly negative, and here it is distinguished by how evenly split it was during the conventions. At the time of the GOP gathering, negative assertions about Romney in the blogs studied outstripped positive ones by 22 points (41% to 19%). That same week, the conversation about Obama tilted to the negative by 30 points (45% negative and 15% positive).
The week of the Democratic convention, the conversation was again harshly negative for both, with a similar easing toward the host party. The conversation about Obama was negative by 24 points (43% to 19%). And the conversation about Romney was negative by 30 points, (46% negative assertions to 16% positive).
Since then, the conversation among bloggers has become worse for Romney. The week after the Democratic convention, the negative to positive gap for Romney grew to 34 points (48% negative and 14% positive). The following week, it increased further, to 41 points (54% negative and 13% positive).
In the case of Obama, the conversation in the blogosphere has remained fairly static since the Democratic convention.
Of the three main social media venues in which the tone of conversation can be assessed by PEJ, the treatment of the candidates has been the most unchanging on Facebook. Here the sample is more limited. All that can be analyzed is a random sampling of Facebook posts that users are willing to have seen publicly. Presumably, that is a conversation that is designed to persuade but may not reflect the full range of what people say to just their "friends" on Facebook.
What was in this space during the month was overwhelmingly negative and barely budged. In each of the four weeks, negative assertions about Romney exceeded positive ones by 43 points-exactly.
There was a little more variation for Obama and a mildly positive trend. During the Republican convention, negative assertions about the president outstripped positive ones by 49 points. During the Democratic convention, that dropped just slightly, to a 42 point negative differential. The last week studied, September 17-23, that had narrowed to 33 points-21% percent positive and 54% negative.
The Volume of Attention on Social Media
Another way of gauging the social media response to the candidates during the convention period is to look at volume, or how much attention was focused on each candidate. Here, there is a clearer distinction between Obama and Romney. For most of the month, most of the attention, whether measured in conversation or in views on YouTube, was focused on the president and Democrats.
On Twitter, Obama was the focus of more than twice as many assertions during the week of the Democratic convention than Romney was during the Republican convention (4.92 million assertions versus 1.98 million). That pattern, more attention to Obama, has held throughout the general election period and all of 2012, even during the period of the GOP primaries.
The two exceptions came just recently. The week of the GOP convention, Romney was the subject of slightly more assertions on Twitter than Obama - 1,975,872 to 1,958,298. The only occasion when Romney was in a significantly larger number was the week of September 17-23 when the 47% video surfaced. That week, there were 2.3 million Twitter assertions about the GOP nominee versus 1.9 million about Obama.
This generally higher focus on Obama is also reflected in the volume on Facebook. During Romney's convention week, for instance, there was more conversation about Obama than Romney by about 18%. And during Obama's convention week, the conversation about the president outstripped that of Romney by about 3-to-1, 166,724 assertions compared to 51,762.
The same basic volume pattern prevailed on blogs. During the GOP convention week, the Obama conversation was more than 17% greater than for Romney. During the Democratic convention week, it was twice as big.
And unlike Twitter, even the emergence of the now famous 47% video did not move the focus of the conversation from Obama toward Romney on blogs and Facebook.
The higher interest in Obama and the Democrats in social media is also reflected in the viewership of videos since the two conventions. For instance, through September 21, 2012, Obama's acceptance speech on various YouTube channels has been viewed nearly five times as often as Romney's (4.9 million to 1.1 million). And contrary to what some observers might speculate, Obama's speech has also been viewed more than former President Bill Clinton's address to the nation, though that speech, in various forms, has been viewed on YouTube nearly four times as often as Romney (3.9 million times to Romney's 1.1 million). The same pattern can be seen in the numbers as they relate to the wives of the candidates. Michelle Obama's speech has been viewed 3.2 million times, about five times as often as the one delivered by Ann Romney (563,000).
The only major Republican figure to generate more attention than his Democratic counterpart on YouTube was vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, whose speech has attracted 457,000 views compared with 173,000 for Vice President Joseph Biden, whose speech was not delivered in prime time.
The only other speaker at the Republican convention to generate major YouTube attention was one that Romney might like to forget. That was actor and director Clint Eastwood's "empty chair" speech. Since Eastwood's appearance, that video has been viewed 3.2 million times.
The only GOP video since the convention to be viewed more often than the Eastwood clip was footage of Romney's 47% remarks to fundraisers, which as of September 24, had been viewed 3.4 million times. That is still less, however, than the president's acceptance speech or Clinton's remarks.
The one media platform where the tone of the discourse changed markedly during the last month, and where a candidate managed to generate more positive than negative treatment, however briefly, was in the mainstream news media.
Here, in a sample that also includes cable and talk radio hosts, Romney fared somewhat better during his convention week than Obama during his.
The week of the GOP convention, 36% of the stories about Romney studied in the mainstream media outlets was positive compared with 15% negative-a margin of 21 points. The week of the Democratic gathering, 32% of the stories about Obama were positive compared with 22% negative-a gap of 10 points.
Since then, Obama's coverage has turned somewhat negative, but is still far better than Romney's. In the week following the conclusion of the conventions, September 10-16, 20% of the stories about Obama have been positive compared to 24% negative.
For Romney, the majority of stories (53%) that week were negative. Strikingly, of the 130 stories about Romney examined from the mainstream press that week, researchers found none in which positive assertions about Romney outnumbered negative ones by a ratio of 3-2, the threshold used to determine a story as having a clear tone. But 47% of the stories that week were mixed in tone, meaning that the assertions about Romney were fairly evenly divided.
The mainstream press has also given more attention to Obama during this period, even with the negative publicity associated with Romney's video. From August 27 to September 16, Obama was a bigger newsmaker than Romney, the focus of 667 stories compared with 477 for his rival.  And while the number of stories about Romney exceeded those about Obama by more than 30% during the Republican convention, Obama was the focus on more than twice as many stories as Romney during the Democratic convention.
 Unlike the social media sample, which included the four weeks from August 27-September 23, the mainstream media sample includes three weeks, from August 27-September 16. This reflects the fact that the human coding of mainstream media outlets takes more time than the computer algorithmic coding of social media.
#1 -- Rank of Syria among the Deadliest Places for Journalists in 2012
This past week, it was reported that American freelance journalist Austin Tice was captured and is being held by the Syrian government--further evidence of just how dangerous the Syrian civil war has become for those who report on it.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 38 journalists have been killed in the line of duty since the beginning of 2012 and almost half those casualties (17 deaths) occurred in Syria. That makes it the deadliest country for journalists this year. And with four months still remaining in 2012, those casualties represent more than double the death toll (7) in the most dangerous country in 2011, which was Pakistan.
The most recent death in Syria occurred on August 20, when a Japanese journalist was killed while travelling with rebel soldiers. The death earlier this year of American journalist Marie Colvin, who died during a shelling attack, generated a spike in U.S. media coverage of the Syrian conflict. A PEJ analysis shows that during the week when Colvin was killed (February 20-26, 2012), coverage of Syria accounted for 9% of the newshole, making it the No. 2 story of that week, behind only the GOP primaries.
How does Syria rank among the most dangerous countries for journalists in the past dozen years, since 2000? According to CPJ data, only two countries-Iraq and the Philipines-have had higher yearly death tolls for journalists.
Every year from 2003--when the U.S. invaded--until 2008, Iraq was the country with the highest media casualty rate. During this time, 136 journalists were killed while reporting on the conflict and sectarian violence there. The year the U.S. entered the war in Afghanistan, 2001, that country was the most dangerous for journalists, with nine of them killed in the line of duty.
The largest one-year death toll for journalists in the past dozen years occurred in the Philippines in 2009. On November 23, 2009, 33 journalists who were traveling with a political candidate were abducted and killed by his political rivals, along with at least 20 others. Three years later, no one has been punished for the massacre. This is the deadliest attack ever recorded by CPJ, who began tracking journalist killings two decades ago.
Before CPJ designates a journalist as killed in the line of duty, it investigates each case to discover whether the journalist was killed because of his/her work, either a victim of a reprisal act or killed in crossfire. They do this through interviews, research, and verifying with numerous sources. If they are unable to confirm the cause of death, but have reason to believe that the killing was motivated against the press, then that case is marked "unconfirmed".
So far in 2012, there are 24 unconfirmed killings of journalists in the line of duty along with the 38 confirmed ones. Four of those unconfirmed cases are in Syria.
By Monica Anderson of PEJ
On the eve of the conventions, the portrayal in the news media of the character and records of the two presidential contenders in 2012 has been as negative as any campaign in recent times, and neither candidate has enjoyed any advantage over the other.
The Master Character Narratives in Campaign 2012
After helping define the Obama presidency for almost a year, health care reform largely disappeared as a subject in the American news media as it wended its way through the legal system to the Supreme Court.
When it was a major story, however, most of the coverage focused on the politics of the bill rather than the substance of the legislation. And the language and framing of the issue favored by the bill’s Republican critics was far more prevalent in the news coverage than the language and framing favored by Democrats supporting the bill, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Health care reached its heights as a news story in the summer of 2009 and early 2010, during the rise of the tea party and the battles in the House and Senate over passage of the legislation. In the third quarter of 2009, with passions fueled by angry town hall meetings, coverage of the health care debate filled 18% of the newshole, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index, making it the No. 1 story in the news. That number fell slightly but remained high in the last quarter of 2009 (13%) and the first quarter of 2010 (14%).
But once the battle over health care shifted to the courts, largely in federal appeals court decisions, the subject received far less attention. From April 2010 through December 2011, the subject never exceeded 2% of the overall newshole in any three months period.
That changed, some, in the first three months of 2012, with coverage rising to 5% of the newshole. The week of February 6-12, the story first made a comeback (9% of the newshole) as the debate over whether religious institutions should be forced to cover contraception in their health insurance plans emerged as a major issue. Four weeks later, Rush Limbaugh’s controversial comments about a Georgetown law student helped drive coverage (10%) the week of March 5-11.
At its peak, in 2009 and early 2010, the issue was also more of a topic in the opinion part of the media culture, on radio and cable TV talk shows, than elsewhere. But it wasn’t always Obama’s partisan opponents doing the talking, but often people from within the liberal camp who felt the law didn’t go far enough. During that period, liberal talk show hosts devoted more time to the issue than conservative hosts.
That fits with another finding in an analysis of the press coverage, particularly during the formative stages from June 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010. Most of the coverage of the health care reform bill focused on the politics as opposed to reporting on what the bill would do or the state of health care. Fully 49% of the coverage focused on politics and strategy, as well as the legislative process. Less than a quarter of the coverage (23%) outlined what the various proposals would do, and 9% of the coverage focused on the state of the health care system in the U.S.
Which side got the better of this highly politically oriented coverage? An analysis by PEJ of the language used in the media (PEJ research) reveals that opponents of the reform won the so-called “messaging war” in the coverage. Terms that were closely associated with opposition arguments, such as “government run,” were far more present in media reports than terms associated with arguments supporting the bill, such as “pre-existing conditions.”
To conduct the analysis, researchers examined and identified three of the most common concepts being pushed by opponents of the bill and the three concepts being promoted by supporters and then examined the news coverage for the presence of those concepts and language. The concepts used by opponents were nearly twice as common as those used by supporters. See the full methodology here.
How important is health care to Obama’s presidency? Of all the stories in which Obama has been a lead newsmaker (meaning at least 50% of the story referenced him), the health care debate is the No. 3 topic during his first year in office. Fully 13% of these stories were about health care, substantially more than about the war in Afghanistan. Only the economy (the subject of 18% of Obama stories) and stories that focus directly on the operations of the Administration were larger.
No. 5 - Ranking of the European financial crisis among top stories in the past year
With worries mounting over Greece’s possible exit from the European Union, attention to the economic problems in the euro zone accounted for 5% of the newshole last week. That level of attention made Europe’s financial woes the No. 3 story last week and represented the most weekly coverage generated by that subject since December 5-11, 2011.
The impact of Europe’s financial crisis has been felt in the U.S., affecting the stock market and raising economic fears that some analysts believe could impact the 2012 presidential election. But how much coverage has it received in the U.S. media? An examination by PEJ largely finds modest coverage, with a few notable spikes, in the past year.
From June 1, 2011-May 20, 2012, the European economic crisis has accounted for 2% of the newshole in U.S. media, making it the No. 5 story overall in that period—trailing the presidential election (18%), U.S. economic woes (16%), the unrest in the Middle East (6%) and the war in Afghanistan (3%).
In 6 of the 12 months studied, coverage of the euro zone woes accounted for less than 2% of the newshole. But in May 2012, the story began to pick up steam (4% of the newshole) as new anti-austerity leaders gained control of governments in France and Greece.
The other two months in the past year when attention to the economic problems in Europe accounted for at least 4% of the newshole were November (7%) and December (4%) 2011. This rise in coverage followed the euro zone leaders’ decision on October 26 to restructure Greece’s debt to try and ensure the Greek crisis didn’t spread to the rest of the European Union. But this deal sparked worries about the collapse of the Greek government, led to strict austerity measures for Greek citizens and fostered continued unsteadiness in world financial markets. These concerns kept the euro zone in the news through the beginning of 2012.
Coverage trailed off in the beginning of the year, however, not accounting for more than 2% of the newshole in any month until May.
Tricia Sartor of PEJ
43%--Amount of coverage of the anniversary of bin Laden's death devoted to its impact on U.S. politics
Last week marked the anniversary of the U.S. raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden and stories about the al Qaeda leader's death accounted for 12.5% of the newshole from April 30-May 6, 2012. While that is a significant amount of attention, it represents a fraction of the coverage (69%) that bin Laden's death received in the week of May 2-8, 2011.
And one year after bin Laden's demise, in the midst of a presidential campaign season, what was the main theme of last week's coverage? According to a PEJ analysis, the largest component of bin Laden coverage (43%) was political, with much of it focusing on the event's connection to the 2012 election.
The political angle to the story flared up when President Obama released an ad questioning whether his presumptive Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, would have ordered the raid. That triggered criticism from Republicans who argued that Obama was politicizing bin Laden's death to help benefit his campaign.
Perhaps not surprisingly, that political angle to the bin Laden anniversary was most prominent in the two media sectors that include ideological talk shows--radio news, where it filled 80% of the airtime studied, and cable news, where it accounted for 76%.
After politics, there was a significant drop off to the next biggest themes in last week's overall coverage--straight news accounts (18%) and the impact of bin Laden's death on the war on terror (17%).
The online sector devoted the highest percentage of coverage by far (46%) to straight news accounts. And television network newscasts led in coverage of the broader war on terror themes (36%), followed by newspapers, at 27%.
Newspapers had the least amount of overall bin Laden coverage of any media sector (5.2%) and 38% of it was about politics. That is a substantial amount, but far less than what viewers saw and heard on cable and radio.
Monica Anderson of PEJ