June 25, 2009

Riots, Rallies and Protests

Foreign Domestic
Iran Riots 27.5
Lawyers Riot in Pakistan 15.6
Myanmar Monks Protest 8.5
Protests China & Olympics 7.4
Tea Party Protests 7.1
Serbia Protests Kosovo 6.7
May Day Rally 6.7
Jena 6 4.7
Tibet Protests 4.5
Iraq Shoe Thrower 3.9

70% – Percentage of the top-10 protest stories that have occurred outside the U.S.

While much of the news from overseas does not typically generate major attention in the U.S. media, the Iran protests following the disputed June 12 election dominated the news agenda. Filling 27.5% of the newshole from June 15– 21, 2009, the demonstrations in Iran were easily the biggest story that week and the second-biggest international story (after the war in Iraq) since the News Coverage Index began in January 2007.

Moreover, that reflects an ongoing pattern in media coverage. In the past two-and-a-half years, seven of the 10 biggest stories about protests have focused on events in foreign countries.

The second-biggest story about dissent and unrest, which filled 15.6% of the newshole from November 4-10, 2007, involved protests in Pakistan led by lawyers objecting to the implementation of martial law. The No. 3 protest story occurred in Myanmar after Buddhist Monks objected to the country’s military rule (8.5% from September 23-28, 2007).  In fourth place were global protests that broke out as China attempted to transport the Olympic Torch around the world (7.4% from April l7-13, 2008). The riots in Serbia after Kosovo declared its independence (6.7% from February 18-24, 2007) constituted the No. 6 protest story overall.

Rounding out the top 10 were several other overseas events. The demonstrations in Tibet marking the anniversary of the 1959 anti- Chinese uprising and a push for independence accounted for 4.5% of the newshole from March 17-23, 2008. And the events triggered by the Iraqi journalist who tossed his shoes at George W. Bush during a December 14, 2008 press conference—including rallies in support of the shoe-thrower—filled 3.9% of the newshole from December 15-21, 2008.  

The protest story in the U.S. that generated the most coverage since January 2007 was the Tea Party rally aimed largely against Barack Obama’s domestic and fiscal policies. That accounted for 7.1% of the newshole from April 13-19, 2009, and was the fifth-biggest protest story overall. Next, at No. 7, was the May Day protest in support of immigration reform and the reaction by the Los Angeles Police Department (6.7% from April 29-May 5, 2007).  The No. 8  protest event overall was the rally on behalf  of the “Jena 6”—six black teens in Jena, LA, who were charged for beating up a white student—that filled 4.7% of the newshole from September 16 – 21, 2007.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ