September 10, 2010

Beck Rally, Draws Crowds, Media Attention

% of Newshole
Tea Party Apr 13-19 2009 7.1
May Day Apr 29-May 5 2007 6.7
Jena 6 Sep 16-21 2007 4.7
Glenn Beck Aug 30-Sep 5 2010 3.5
9/12 rally Sep 14-20 2009 2.3

1:2 – Ratio of news coverage generated by Glenn’s Beck’s Restoring Honor rally to that of the tea party rallies on April 15, 2009

The August 28 rally in Washington organized by conservative talk show host and political commentator Glenn Beck drew a large crowd—estimates ranged from 80,000 to 500,000 people—along with a fair amount of media attention.

The rally, which was focused on faith and values, filled 3.5% of the media newshole the week of August 30-September 5, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. That made it the 7th biggest story that week as measured by PEJ’s News Coverage Index, ahead of such other topics as the trapped Chilean miners and a fire aboard another off-shore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  

But the Beck rally was hardly the most covered demonstration in recent years. For instance, that level of coverage was about half the attention given to a coordinated series of “tea party” rallies held April 15, 2009. Those rallies, held in more than 750 cities across the United States, filled 7.1% of the newshole the week of April 13-19, 2009. That level of coverage made the tea party events the most covered domestic rally or protest since the PEJ began the news index in January 2007.

The second-most-covered demonstration revolved around the 2007 May Day rallies around the country in support of immigration reform and the alleged misconduct of police during the rally in Los Angeles. The story filled with 6.7 percent of the newshole the week of April 29-May 4, 2007.

The No. 3 protest event was the rally—led by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton–on behalf of the “Jena 6”, six black teens in Jena, LA, who were charged for beating up a white student. That story, filled 4.7% of the newshole from September 16 – 21, 2007.

Rounding out the top 5 protest events are the September 12, 2009 protests held in Washington against the Obama Administration’s fiscal and domestic policies. Coverage of the protests filled 2.3% of the media newshole the week of September 14-20, 2009.

But none of these demonstrations compare to the coverage given the protests in Iran following the disputed June 2009 presidential elections in that country.  From June 15-21, 2009 coverage of the protests filled 27.5% of the media newshole.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ