PEJ News Coverage Index: Feb. 4 - 9, 2007, Anna and the Astronaut Trigger a Week of Tabloid News

  • February 15, 2007
  • By Mark Jurkowitz

On February 9, about 24 hours after the death of Anna Nicole Smith, CNN curmudgeon Jack Cafferty was reading viewer emails complaining about non-stop cable coverage of that story—and agreeing with them.

“That's the only story we reported [yesterday] for two solid hours and we weren't the only ones,” growled Wolf Blitzer's “Situation Room” sidekick. “Her death was tabloid gold and apparently, we just couldn't help ourselves.”

“I know a lot of people are complaining about that,” said Blitzer, somewhat defensively. “But a lot of people are also watching.”

For the first time this year, “tabloid gold” fever seized at least some of the news media last week in a significant way, according to PEJ's News Coverage Index from February 4 to February 9. Though it only made up two days of coverage, the sudden death of the Playmate turned heiress turned reality star was the No. 3 story in the news last week, almost edging out a bloody week in Iraq.

And that may be understating the feel of the coverage. The bosomy blonde's demise consumed a staggering 50% of the cable newshole PEJ examined on February 8 and 9. Those are levels reminiscent of those pre-9/11 celebrity sagas—think Princess Di and JFK Jr.

Read the full article and view charts on the Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.