September 11, 2008

Meteorology in the Morning

Bad Weather
Network Morning 7.8
Online 5.1
Network Evening 4.8
Cable TV 3.1
Radio 1.8
Newspaper 1.5

7.8%-Percentage of morning network coverage devoted to bad weather.

Violent weather generated major media attention last week when Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna made landfall in the U.S. Gustav—a storm whose path conjured up memories of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina—was the second-biggest story week of September 1-7, filling16.5% of the newshole. Hurricane Hanna followed as the third-biggest story of the week, accounting for 3.7% of the newshole. The presidential campaign was still the top story by a large margin last week, but the two storms combined to fill one-fifth of the newshole.

The potential danger and dramatic visuals of storms often makes them major newsmakers. But one media sector in particular tends to be more interested in violent weather than the others. So far this year, the network morning news shows have outpaced all other platforms in coverage of bad weather/natural disasters, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index. From January 1-September 7, Good Morning America, Today, and the Early Show spent 7.8% of the airtime studied on events such as the January snowstorms in the Northeast; the violent storms in Arkansas and Missouri in May; Hurricane Dolly in July; and the flooding near the Grand Canyon in August. Online news was next, filling 5.1% of its newshole with bad weather. The network evening news followed closely with 4.8%. Cable (3.1%), radio (1.5%) and newspaper (1.5%) spent considerably less time on events like these.

Coverage of Gustav and Hanna from September 1-7 exemplifies this trend. Morning network news attention to Gustav and Hanna accounted for nearly a third (32.6%) of the newshole studied. The storm accounted for 23.3% of the online newshole. Network evening news (23.0%), cable (19.8%) newspaper (18.1%) and radio (14.3%) followed.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ