April 21, 2010

Nukes in the News

% of weekly newshole
North Korea Weapon Test 5/25-31/09 11.6
Intelligence Report on Iran 12/2-7/07 11
Iran Missile Tests 9/28-10/4/09 10.4
Iran Secret Nuke Facility 9/21-27/09 8.2
DC Nuke Summit 4/12-18/10 6.8
Russia Missile Defense 6/3-8/07 6.8

5th – Rank of recent D.C. summit among top nuclear weapons stories

The April 12 and 13 Nuclear Securities Summit in Washington, which included 47 countries and focused on safeguarding nuclear materials, generated significant media attention. Coverage of the conference and the agreements reached there filled 6.8% of the newshole from April 12-18, making it the third-biggest story that week. (It was topped only by the economy, at 15.6%, and the volcano in Iceland at 7.4 %.) That level of coverage makes the summit the fifth-biggest nuclear-related event since PEJ began its News Coverage Index in January 2007. The D.C. nuclear conference is the only diplomatic event to make the list of top nuclear news.   

Indeed, one country seems to dominate the nuclear-related news. Three of the top six stories on that subject involved the nuclear ambitions of Iran and efforts to prevent that nation from developing a weapon.

A December 2007 intelligence report concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program four years earlier, an assessment that seemed to contradict the warnings coming from the George Bush White House. That development filled 11.0% of the newshole the week of December 2-7, 2007, making it the second-biggest nuclear story examined by PEJ.

The No. 3 story, filling 10.4% of the newshole from September 28-October 4, 2009, occurred when Iran launched two test missiles capable of reaching Israel and parts of Europe. One week earlier, President Obama’s disclosure of two newly discovered nuclear facilities inside Iran was the fourth-biggest nuclear story, filling 8.2% of the newshole from September 21-27, 2009.

Despite the focus on Iran’s weapons program, the nuclear story that generated the most weekly coverage was the testing of nuclear weapons by North Korea on May 25 and 26, 2009. That story filled 11.6% of the newshole from May 25-31, 2009.

Rounding out the top-six nuclear stories was Russia’s threat to point missiles at Europe if the U.S. continued with its missile defense shield in the area, which filled 6.8% of the newshole the week of June 3-8, 2007.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ