June 2, 2009

Dick Cheney – A Bigger Newsmaker Out of Office

Dick Cheney Joe Biden George Bush Barack Obama
Dick Cheney 1/21/09-5/31/09 133
Dick Cheney 1/1/08-1/20/09 96
Joe Biden 1/21/09-5/31/09 69
George Bush 1/21/09-5/31/09 39
Barack Obama 1/21/09-5/31/09 3192

133 – Number of stories with Cheney as lead newsmaker since Obama’s inauguration.

On May 21, former Vice President Dick Cheney virtually shared equal media billing with President Barack Obama as they delivered dueling speeches on national security. That policy debate came after a Cheney media tour in which the former vice president has been a vocal critic of Obama’s anti-terrorism policies and a staunch defender of the Bush administration record.  One of the ironies of Cheney’s new role, often referenced in the coverage, is its contrast with his previous image as a secretive and somewhat enigmatic figure, or as U.S. News & World headline once put it, “The Man Behind The Curtain.”

Since he stepped down as vice president, Cheney has been a lead newsmaker—meaning that at least 50% of a story is about him—in 133 stories during the period from January 21 through May 31, 2009.  That represents almost a 40% increase from the number of stories (96) that featured Cheney as lead newsmaker in his last full year in the White House—from January 1, 2008 through January 20, 2009.

Cheney’s recent visibility stands in stark contrast with his former boss, George Bush, who has largely stayed out of the public eye. Since January 21, Bush has been a lead  newsmaker in just 39 stories. And how does Cheney’s coverage stack up against the man who now has his old job? Current Vice-President Joe Biden has been a lead newsmaker in 69 stories from January 21-May 31, generating about half the coverage of his predecessor in that span.

Even with his newfound headline-making prowess, however, Cheney has received only a fraction (4%) of Obama’s coverage in the last four months. In that interval, the President has dominated the news agenda, registering as a lead newsmaker in 3,192 stories.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ