February 5, 2009

Fighting in Gaza Makes Major National News

Iraq 12.7
Israeli Palestinian Conflict 5.7
Olympics 4.6
Afghan- istan 4.3
Mumbai Terror Attacks 4.2
Georgia Russia Conflict 4
Financial Crisis 3.8
Pakistan 3
China 2.8
Iran 2.5

No. 2 – Rank of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict among overseas

Despite a major plunge in coverage since 2007, the Iraq war is still the biggest overseas story in the U.S. media, accounting for about 13% of the space and time devoted to international news from Feb. 1, 2008-Feb. 1, 2009. But the second-biggest story may be bit of a surprise. Extensive coverage of the three-week war in Gaza was enough to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the No. 2 event, accounting for about 6% of international coverage in that span. (From the war’s onset in late December until Feb. 1, it was the third-biggest overall story in the media, trailing only President Obama and the U. S. economic crisis.)

Indeed, there’s been more press attention in the past year to the Israeli-Palestinian issue than to the war in Afghanistan—the fourth-biggest overseas story—where U.S troops are actively fighting.

The Gaza conflict seems to, in some ways, represent the type of dramatic, but relatively short-lived international event that generates U.S. headlines. The two-week Olympic Games in Beijing were the third-biggest international story in the past year; the 50-hour Mumbai terror attack last November was No. 5 and the 10-day conflict in August between Russia and Georgia was No. 6. They all generated more media attention than three ongoing stories involving strategically crucial nations—Pakistan (the eighth-biggest international subject), China (No. 9) and Iran (No. 10).

Another overseas story that has attracted U.S. media coverage is the global version of one of the biggest domestic stories. The ripple effect of the economic crisis was the seventh-largest international story in the past 12 months—due in part to coverage of European banks being nationalized, Iceland’s government collapsing and stimulus packages being launched around the world.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ