October 1, 2009

Terror Cases in the News

Terror Plots
Najibullah Zazi Sep 21-27 2009 7.7
Fort Dix Plot May 6-11 2007 6.5
Boston Stunt Jan 28-Feb 2 2007 3
Synagogue Plot May 18-24 2009 2.8
JFK Plot Jun 3-9 2007 2.7
N.Carolina Suspects Jul 27-Aug 2 2009 1.8

No. 1 – Rank of Najibullah Zazi story among most-covered U.S. terror cases since 2007

The case of Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan immigrant charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction on U.S. soil, has captured headlines in recent days. During the week of September 21-27, when Zazi was indicted and more details of the case came to light, the story filled 7.7% of the newshole. That represented the highest level of weekly coverage for any alleged terror plot in the U.S. since PEJ began its News Coverage Index in January 2007.  

The second-biggest week of coverage occurred when six men were arrested for planning to attack the Fort Dix army base in New Jersey on May 8, 2007. For the week of May 6-11, 2007, that story filled 6.5% of the newshole. The No. 4 terrorism story involved suspects from the Bronx who allegedly planned to bomb synagogues in New York City. Those men were arrested May 20, 2007, and that episode filled 2.8% of the newshole from May 18-24, 2009. An alleged plan to blow up fuel supply lines to JFK Airport made news with arrests on June 3, 2007, filling 2.7% of the newshole from June 3-9, 2007. And the No. 6 story was triggered by the arrest of seven North Carolina residents charged with conspiring to provide support to terrorism (1.8% from July 27-August 2, 2009).

The No. 3 terror plot-related story was something quite different. After packages with blinking lights and visible wires were found in Boston on January 31, 2007, officials—fearing they might be bombs—shut down roads and bridges. After causing panic and major traffic problems, the threat turned out to be an ad campaign from Turner Broadcasting System for the adult cartoon “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” By the time the dust cleared, the head of the Cartoon Network had resigned and TBS paid out $2 million to Boston. The story filled 3.0% of the newshole from January 28-February 2, 2007.  

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ