July 23, 2008

Foreign Coverage Shrinking, Not Gone

China 16.6
Iraq 7.6
Myanmar 7.2
Pakistan 5.3
Zimbabwe 5.2
Israel 5.2
Palestinian Territories 4.4
Afghanistan 3.9
Kenya 3.1
Iran 2.6
Cuba 2.2
Russia 1.9
Lebanon 1.6
Sudan 1.2

10.7%-Amount of coverage of international events not involving the U.S.

A PEJ study of American newspapers finds that coverage of international events is declining more than any other subject. Fully 64% of participating newspaper editors report their papers are giving less space to international news, and 46% say they are devoting fewer reporting and editing resources to the subject. So how much attention does the press devote to covering events happening around the world?

According to PEJ’s News Coverage Index, non-US foreign affairs have accounted for 10.7% of the overall newshole from January 1 through July 20, 2008. Yet that percentage can be deceptive. Some countries earn a sizeable amount of press exposure.

China tops the list. Attention to the earthquake there and to the upcoming Olympics has catapulted coverage of China to 16.6% of that 10.7% of non-U.S. newshole. Stories from Iraq that are not directly about U.S. people or interests came next, filling 7.6% of that foreign newshole. Myanmar (7.2%), largely due to the cyclone that devastated the country, places third. Pakistan follows with 5.3%. Israel and Zimbabwe are next, each at 5.2%. Events in the Palestinian territories (4.4%) and Afghanistan (3.9%) round out the eight most-covered foreign countries.

Incidentally, coverage of U.S. people and interests abroad—the other kind of foreign reporting—filled a relatively similar amount of space, 11.3% of the newshole studied.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ