July 30, 2009

When Hillary Clinton Makes Headlines

# of stories
Confirmation Hearing Jan 12-18 51
1st Asia Trip Feb 16-22 44
Mid East and NATO Mar 2-8 42
2nd Asia Trip Jul 20-26 26
Mexico Drug War Mar 23-29 22

#4 – Hillary Clinton’s rank among the top newsmakers of 2009

Hillary Clinton’s trip to Asia the week of July 20-26—which included stops in India and Thailand—put the Secretary of State in the news. That was due in part to a rhetorical volley between Clinton—who compared North Korea to “unruly children” demanding attention—and a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson who said Clinton looks like “a primary schoolgirl”.  The week of the Asia trip, Clinton was a lead newsmaker (meaning that at least 50% of the story was about her) in 26 stories—enough to make her the fourth-biggest newsmaker that week.

Some analysts have expressed surprise that in her role as top U.S. diplomat, Clinton hasn’t been a more visible official—citing a relatively light schedule of television and press appearances. But according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index, she has been the fourth most prominent newsmaker in 2009. The 329 stories in which Clinton has been a lead newsmaker put her far behind Barack Obama (lead newsmaker in 4837 stories), and she also trails recently deceased Michael Jackson (571 stories) and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (471 stories).  

Yet, Clinton has made more news this year than such well-known figures as Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner, (239 stories), former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (214), who has a knack for attracting press, and former Vice President Dick Cheney (195 stories), who since leaving office has become a visible opponent of Obama’s policies  

Clinton’s biggest week of media attention was during her confirmation hearings, (January 12–18) when she was a lead newsmaker in 51 stories. Her other top weeks as a headline generator were related to her travels as Secretary of State. She was a lead newsmaker in 44 stories from February 26-22, when she first visited Asia, with stops in Japan, Indonesia and South Korea. The next-biggest week was her trip to the Middle East and the NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting in Belgium (42 stories from March 2-8). And she also was a lead newsmaker in 22 stories the week of March 23-29, when she visited Mexico to discuss bi-lateral efforts to fight drug trafficking.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ