November 4, 2009

A Bull Market for Overseas News

2008 2009
Afghanistan 0.9 3.9
Iran 0.6 2.5
Iraq 3.6 1.8
Israelis/ Palestinians 0.6 1.2
North Korea 0.2 1.2
Pakistan 0.9 1.2

317% – Percentage Increase in Iran Coverage from 2008 to 2009

From Afghanistan to Iran to North Korea, coverage of some of the top international flashpoints has increased substantially from 2008 to 2009. But that isn’t the case with the six-year-old war in Iraq.  

In the first 10 months of this year, Iraq has accounted for 1.8% of the overall newshole, down from 3.6% in 2008. (And that represented a dramatic decrease from 2007, when the war was the No. 1 story at 15.5%). Meanwhile, Afghanistan coverage has followed the opposite trajectory. In 2008, that conflict filled just 0.9% of the newshole. But in 2009—with record U.S. troop deaths, the ongoing debate over war strategy and the Afghan presidential election—that subject has accounted for 3.9% of the newshole. That makes it the top international story so far in 2009.

The spike in Afghanistan coverage is part of a trend that we have seen with some other major foreign stories. Due primarily to the disputed June 12 elections and the subsequent protests and unrest, attention to Iran in 2009 has jumped to 2.5%, up dramatically from only .6% in 2008. So far this year, it is the No. 2 international story.

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is the fourth-biggest international story of 2009, filling 1.2% of the newshole—doubling the 2008 total of 0.6%. Much of that coverage revolved around the war in Gaza, which began in late December 2008 and continued into January 2009.

Coverage of North Korea, the No. 5 international topic, has increased to 1.2% in 2009 (compared with .2% in 2008), driven largely by attention to that nation’s missile tests and its imprisonment, and eventual release, of two U.S. journalists. And the ongoing instability and violence in Pakistan—the No. 6 foreign story—has accounted for 1.2% of the coverage to date in 2009, up modestly from .9% in 2008.