June 18, 2009

Women in the News

# of Stories
Sonia Sotomayor 280
Hillary Clinton 262
Nancy Pelosi 147
Michelle Obama 117
Sarah Palin 95
Roxana Saberi 64

5th – Sarah Palin’s rank among the year’s female newsmakers

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin re-emerged in the media spotlight the week of June 8-14, partly for her appearance at a GOP fundraiser and more notably for a face-off with David Letterman. Palin harshly criticized the late-night host for joking that one of her daughters was impregnated by New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez—stirring both supporters and critics of the Alaska Governor. That week, Palin was a lead newsmaker (meaning at least 50% of the story was about her) in 42 stories studied by PEJ’s News Coverage Index. So far in 2009, she has been a lead newsmaker 95 times—ranking her fifth among women.

Which women have generated more media attention than Palin this year? The top newsmaker emerged as a public figure only three weeks ago, when she became the first Hispanic woman nominated to the Supreme Court. In that brief, period, one in which her resume and record has been in the spotlight, Sonia Sotomayor has been a lead newsmaker in 280 stories.

Following Sotomayor are three prominent women of Washington who are frequently in the news. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the second-biggest newsmaker at 262 stories. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is next at 147 stories followed by First Lady Michelle Obama at 117 stories.  

The year’s sixth-biggest female newsmaker (64 stories) was the main figure in a major international incident.  Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was arrested in Iran in February, accused of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison. Her charge was later reduced to possessing classified information, and she was freed on May 11, 2009.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ