December 16, 2009

When Off-the-Field Exploits Make Major News

OJ arrested Sept 16-21 2007 13.5
Mitchell report Dec 9-14 2007 7.1
Woods affair Nov 30-Dec 6 2009 6.4
Clemens hearing Feb 11-17 2008 5.1
Vick guilty plea Aug 19-24 2007 3.7
Bonds perjury Nov 11-16 2007 3.1

3rd – Rank of the Tiger Woods saga among most-covered sports scandals

For golf great Tiger Woods, an automobile accident in the early morning hours the day after Thanksgiving triggered an almost unimaginable chain of events. In the past few weeks, media reports have linked Woods to about a dozen women—including a reality show personality, a Playboy model, and an adult film actress.

From November 30-December 6, 2009, the mushrooming Woods story filled 6.4% of the newshole, making it the No. 3 sports scandal in weekly coverage since the PEJ began the News Coverage Index in January 2007. And to some degree, that understates the level of attention Woods has received, since the Index tracks the mainstream press and not tabloid or celebrity-oriented media outlets. (The week of December 7-13, the story slipped to 2.8% of the newshole but was still the No. 10 story.)

But the Woods saga was no match for the coverage generated by ex-football star O.J. Simpson. On September 16, 2007 Simpson was arrested for armed robbery and kidnapping during an attempt to reclaim sports memorabilia at a Las Vegas hotel, a crime of which he was convicted. That story accounted for 13.5% of the newshole from September 16-21, 2007, marking the single biggest week of coverage for any sports-related scandal.  

The-next-biggest story was the release of the so-called Mitchell Report, a 400-page investigation into of the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances in major league baseball that identified 89 players who allegedly used those substances. That event filled 7.1% of the newshole from December 9-14, 2007.  

Two other steroid-related stories registered among the top sports scandals in the past three years. When retired pitching great Roger Clemens went before Congress and denied using performance enhancing drugs, that story accounted for 5.1% of the coverage from February 11-17, 2008.  And the November 15, 2007 indictment of home run king Barry Bonds for perjury before a grand jury investigating steroid use filled 3.1% of the newshole from November 11-16, 2007.

The fifth-biggest sports scandal was NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s guilty plea to dog fighting charges on August 20, 2007, a crime for which he spent 19 months in prison. Coverage of Vick, who has now embarked on a comeback with the Philadelphia Eagles, filled 3.7% of the overall newshole from August 19-24, 2007.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ