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Blagojevich story dominates national news, PEW study finds



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,


I have been a Lynn Sweet / Sun Times fan for as long as I can remember. So I say this with love. I am disappointed in you.

Blagojevich is the top newsmaker because the media colludes to give its readers rampant speculation rather than legitimate stories.

Patrick Fitzgerald said from day one that President Elect Obama is not involved in this.

Every time I see you on a cable program - be it on MSNBC or Faux News - you have an opportunity to spike this line of inquiry. Yet you leave the narrative open to further speculation.

I have not yet decided whether your intent is mischievous or malicious. I can say that this would remain a local concern - and a sidebar to our country's larger and most pressing issues - if the MSM stopped feeding on it.

Where is your interest on the bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report issued last week linking GWB, Rumsfeld et al in war crimes? Where is your journalistic integrity?

for the thoughtful, perhaps some can check their attention span and depth compared to the 'real' thoughtful. i'd really like to see more about troops coming home, carla bruni and less about the 'puppy', the 'dress', and the neo-colonial "joshua generation". as cat stevens sang,"'s a wild world...hard to get by just upon a smile.", yes?

for the thoughtful, perhaps some can check their attention span and depth compared to the 'real' thoughtful. i'd really like to see more about troops coming home, carla bruni and less about the 'puppy', the 'dress', and the neo-colonial "joshua generation". as cat stevens sang,"'s a wild world...hard to get by just upon a smile.", yes? by the way, is there call forwarding for that 3:00am call?

I think that the news is necessary to report, but that it doesn't need to be told over and over until decisions are made. There are many topics that could be covered, including the troops, Caylee Anthony, etc. while FINALLY the well-deserved impeachment process is in being worked on for Chicago's very own CROOK, BLAGO!!! Is it just me, or is that the most arrogant ugly man in the world!

People are/were tired of hearing about the U.S. Auto Industry begging for money when building inferior products, Financial Crisis Wall Street created by greedy executives, President-Elect Obama's every comment on the frivilous issues of what dog he is buying to did he or his emissaries (the lastest buzzword) speak about who would fill the vacant senate seat, all while and Caylee Anthony is considered an after-thought.

In other words, people needed a diversion which was more for humor while the hateful press was persecuting an individual publicly. It made for fodder on SNL and all the late night talk shows.

People need some humor and realistically Governor Blagojevich did a dam good job of it with THE IMMENSE HELP OF THE MEDIA!

Thank you Gov, at least I got to laugh while the crooks on Wall Street are still manipulating the Accounting Ledgers, the U.S. Auto Industry play a shell game or three-card monte about who is going broke first, and read and listen over and over how the President-Elect was over-heard giving his APPRECIATION to you for possibly being a good guy for considering one of his choices.

The only sad part is the media gave very minute coverage to the possible findings of a little girl who was murdered and possibly by her mother.

But as George Carlin stated, paraphrasing here, "Hey people, this is what the educational systems produces, WHAT ELSE DO WE EXPECT OF THE MEDIA?" They are ours and don't know when to move on to something more concrete to our lives.

Seriously though, listen to the link, review it again, think and mull it over critically with friends then say "Well by George, you got something there and it can be applied to the MEDIA, and other entities of life as well!"

The US auto industry story is, indeed, huge, but it's also just another chapter in a book that everyone feels they have read.


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 16, 2008 10:34 AM.

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, Majority leader Barbara Flynn Currie on Blagojevich impeachment. Transcript was the previous entry in this blog.

Illinois General Assembly links for live tv and audio coverage of Blagojevich scandal is the next entry in this blog.

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