April 7, 2010

Russia News in U.S. Media

% of Weekly Newshole
Georgia War Aug 11-17 2008 26
Georgia War Aug 18-24 2008 8
Missile Plan Jun 3-8 2007 7
Nuke Reduction Jul 6-12 2009 6
Metro Attack Mar 29-Apr 4 2010 4
Georgia War Aug 25-31 2008 4
Georgia War Aug 14-10 2008 3
Missile Defense Sept 14-20 2009 3

4% – Percent of newshole devoted to the terror attacks in Russia the week of March 29–April 4

Two female suicide bombers attacked the Moscow transit system during morning rush hour on March 29, killing at least 40 and injuring over 100. Two days later, two more blasts killed another 12 in the volatile southern republic of Dagestan. The violence in Russia was a major story in the United States, filling 4% of the newshole studied by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism the week of March 29-April 4 . This level of attention made it the most-covered act of terrorism since the November, 2008 attack in Mumbai, India.

But coverage of the Moscow bombings is hardly the biggest Russian story in recent years. The incidents made March 29-April 4 just the fifth-biggest week for Russian news since PEJ began tracking media coverage in January 2007.

The biggest single week of Russia coverage occurred at the height of the Russian-Georgia conflict in August 2008. Georgia launched a military offensive against South Ossetia, a Moscow-backed republic that declared its independence from Georgia in 1990. Russian and South Ossetian troops retaliated pushing the Georgian army out of South Ossetia and occupying several key cities in Georgia proper. The week of August 11-17, 2008, the conflict filled 26% of the overall newshole studied—making the story the most covered international conflict not directly involving the U.S. since PEJ began the weekly News Coverage Index. Despite a cease-fire agreement on August 12, 2008, the war continued to generate coverage, filling 8% of the newshole the week of August 18-24, and 4% the next week, August 25-31. During the early stages of the conflict, August 4-10, 2008, the story filled 3% of the newshole.

Other big weeks in U.S. coverage of Russian-related news include June 3-8, 2007, when the U.S. announced plans to install a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Russia viewed the shield as a threat, leading Vladimir Putin, then the president of Russia, to warn of a new Cold War if the U.S. continued with the system. Coverage of the story filled 7% of the newshole that week.

A meeting between Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in which the leaders agreed to reduce their nuclear arms filled 6% of the newshole July 6-12, 2009. And Obama’s September 17, 2009 announcement to halt plans to build the missile defense system in Europe filled 3% of the September 14-20, 2009 newshole.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ