August 6, 2009

The Michael Jackson Saga Stays in the News

Michael Jackson Coverage
Overall 11.1
Network Morning 28.7
Cable 19.5
Network Evening 10.8
Online 7.4
Radio 6.2
Newspaper 4.1

11.1% – Percentage of overall coverage devoted to Michael Jackson from June 25 – August 2

After a brief lull in media attention, the spotlight returned to the Michael Jackson story the week of July 27– August 2. Coverage focused on the search of the Las Vegas home of Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, and speculation that he may be criminally responsible for the entertainer’s death. In all, the Jackson story filled 4.1% of the newshole from July 27–August 2, making it the fourth-biggest story that week.

Indeed, media attention to the pop star’s death, the investigation and the legal battles that followed has accounted for 11.1% of the overall newshole in the five-week period between June 25 and August 2. It was the No. 3 story during that interval, following just behind coverage of the nation’s two dominant domestic policy issues, the health care debate (12.6%) and the economic crisis (11.7%).

In some ways, the Jackson coverage resembles that surrounding Anna Nicole Smith more than two years ago  The former Playmate and model’s death on February 8, 2007 instantly made major news with coverage sustained by allegations of drug abuse and legal battles over the estate and custody of her child. While the Jackson case has generated more coverage, the Smith story did account for 5.5% of the newshole in the first five weeks after her death (February 8–March 18, 2007). It was the fourth-biggest story during that time, behind the 2008 Presidential campaign (8.8%),  the Washington-based debate over Iraq policy (8.4%) and events occurring inside Iraq (6.7%). 

As was also the case with Smith, Jackson’s death has been largely a TV story, with cable and network news leading the way. In both sectors, Jackson has been the No. 1 story from June 25–August 2, registering at 19.5% on cable and 17.8% on network news. (On network news, it has generated far more attention on the morning shows, at 28.7% of the newshole, than on the evening newscasts, at 10.8% of the airtime.)  Online news sites are next, but trail far behind TV news at 7.4%. Radio follows at 6.2% and newspapers are last, at 4.1%.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ