June 4, 2008

Follow-up Failure in Texas

Raid (April 7-8) Court Ruling (May 29-30)
Overall 7 2.9
Newspaper 1.7
Online 10.8 2.6
Network TV 17.3 7.4
Cable TV 5.4 3.9
Radio 2.2 1.2

141%-That’s how much more coverage the Texas raid received than the ruling reversing it.

n April 3, authorities raided the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ranch in Eldorado, Texas. They removed more than 400 children—alleged to be in danger from sexual and physical abuse—from the polygamist ranch. The raid did not make national news until April 7, but once it did, coverage was significant. The event captured 7.0% of the overall newshole on April 7 and 8, as measured by PEJ’s News Coverage Index.

On May 29, however, a dramatic development in the story received decidedly less press attention. The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state had illegally seized the children and that they should be returned to their parents. Yet, media coverage of that pivotal ruling on May 29 and May 30 accounted for only 2.9% of the newshole.

The drop-off in coverage from the initial raid to the Supreme Court decision occurred across all media sectors. Online (10.8% to 2.6%) and network news (17.3% to 7.4%) saw the greatest decline in coverage. Neither event was a mega-story on cable news, with the initial raid filling 5.4% of the newshole and the court decision accounting for only 3.9%