March 22, 2012

Massacre Puts Afghanistan Back in the Headlines

% of weekly newshole
Obama Troop Surge 11/30-12/6/09 27.1
McChrystal Fired 6/21-6/27/10 24.8
Tension over Afghan policy 10/5-10/11/09 19.6
Shooting Rampage 3/12-3/18/12 19.3
Wikileaks 7/26-8/1/10 19.2

#4 – Rank of the deadly shooting spree among biggest weeks of Afghanistan news

U.S. media coverage of the war in Afghanistan has been sporadic and often sparse. For all of 2011, for example, the decade-long conflict accounted for only 1.9% of the newshole. But so far in 2012, coverage has doubled and the March 11 massacre of 16 civilians in Afghanistan, allegedly by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, pushed media attention of the war to a level not seen in 16 months.

From May 12-18, the conflict accounted for 19.3% of the newshole, making it the fourth biggest week of Afghanistan news since PEJ began the News Coverage Index in January 2007.

Several of the biggest weeks of news about Afghanistan involved coverage of U.S. policy and strategy in the conflict.

The No. 1 week of war-related news was President Obama’s announcement that he would be sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and establishing an 18-month timetable for troop drawdown. That week, November 30-December 6, 2009, the story accounted for 27.1% of the newshole.

The second biggest week occurred after the firing of General Stanley McChrystal following his disparaging comments about Obama’s Afghanistan policy, which appeared in a Rolling Stone article. The week of June 21-27, 2010, this story accounted for 24.8% of the newshole.

The No. 3 week of Afghanistan news was October 5-11, 2009 when there were signs of internal disagreement in the Obama Administration about what strategy to pursue in Afghanistan. The war accounted for 19.6% of the newshole that week.

The release of 90,000 secret military documents related to the Afghanistan conflict, through the site Wikileaks, accounted for 19.2% of the newshole July 26-August 1, 2010—making it the  fifth biggest week of news about Afghanistan.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ