WASHINGTON--The economy is melting. President-elect Barack Obama is making important appointments. The U.S. auto industry is almost in ruins. And the top story last week in the nation--the biggest this year outside of the election and the economy-- is the scandal surrounding Gov. Blagojevich, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Excerpt below from the Pew study:
It takes an extraordinary story to burst into the news cycle in a week when the Senate rejected a lifeline to the American auto industry, companies from Sony to Bank of America announced stunning layoffs, and Barack Obama tapped his choice to tackle health care reform.
And with the sunrise arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on Dec. 9, that's exactly what we had. It was a saga of cinematic dimensions--part Sopranos/part All the King's Men. The governor of the fifth-biggest state was on tape allegedly and profanely talking about selling Barack Obama's now empty Senate seat, and expressing a desire to use his office to peddle a lot of other things for personal gain as well.
"Blago-gate," as it was instantly dubbed, filled more than a quarter of the newshole from Dec. 8-14, as measured by the News Coverage Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. For all of 2008, it was the biggest weekly story not related to the election or economy. And it seemed to siphon media attention away from the week's other big stories.
Below, from a release from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.....
The fallout from the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich filled more than a quarter of the newshole the week of Dec. 8-14--making it the biggest weekly story of 2008 unrelated to the economy or the election, according to a report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The scandal (dubbed "Blago-gate") accounted for 28% of the newshole last week. It generated more coverage than the Russia-Georgia conflict (26% from Aug. 11-17) and another big political scandal, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's involvement with a prostitute (23% the week of March 10-16). The Blagojevich narrative was the top story online, on cable and in radio and it filled 44% of the airtime on cable news last week.
The embattled Blagojevich was also the top newsmaker from Dec. 8-14, appearing as a lead newsmaker in 10% of the overall stories. Incoming President Barack Obama was next (8%), followed by Jesse Jackson Jr., who was also featured prominently in Blago-gate stories, at 2%. In fourth place was missing toddler, Caylee Anthony (1%), and George Bush came next, also at 1%.
These findings are part of PEJ's running content analysis of media coverage, called the News Coverage Index, which studies 48 outlets from the five main media sectors.
Other findings in include:
Combined overage of the economic crisis filled nearly one-third of last week's newshole--down a bit from the previous week. The key storylines of this topic included the troubled U.S. auto industry (18% of the newshole) and attention to the financial crisis, which filled 11% of coverage--a nine-point drop from the previous week.
The week of Dec. 8-14, coverage of the new Obama administration plunged to 8% from 18% the previous week, which represents approximately one-third of the attention that this topic received in the first few weeks following Election Day.
After Blagojevich, the economy, and Obama's transition, the top stories of last week included new developments in the Caylee Anthony case (2% of the newshole), domestic terrorism issues (2%), global warming (2%) and the fallout from the Mumbai terrorist attacks (2%).
Click here for a direct link to a PDF of the report. The study is for immediate release at our website, www.journalism.org.