News Interest Index: Iraq Tops News Interest; Racial Gap on Jena Six Story

  • September 27, 2007

O.J. Simpson's recent arrest on robbery and assault charges was the most heavily covered news story last week. Yet public interest in the Simpson case was fairly modest. Overall, just 13% of Americans say they followed reports about Simpson's arrest very closely, while 17% listed it as the single story they followed most closely. By contrast, there was much greater public interest in the situation in Iraq: 32% say they paid very close attention to the war, and 25% followed it more closely than any other story last week.

Simpson's latest legal troubles drew somewhat more interest from blacks than whites. About a quarter of blacks (24%) cited Simpson's arrest as the week's top story, compared with 15% of whites. There was broad agreement among both blacks and whites, however, that Simpson's case received too much press coverage though the coverage was fair.

A much larger racial gap emerged on another high profile news story: the demonstrations in Jena, Louisiana in support of six black teenagers involved in a schoolyard fight. The so-called Jena Six story was by far the biggest story of the week among African Americans. Fully half of blacks say they followed this story very closely, while 40% listed it as the story they followed most closely last week. By contrast, just 11% of whites followed the story very closely and 9% listed it as their top story. The national news media devoted 5% of its coverage to this story, which is less than half of the amount of coverage that news organizations devoted to the Simpson arrest (13%).

Read the full report on Pew Research Center for the People and the Press Web site.