PEJ News Coverage Index Quarterly Report: Terrorism, Tight Credit, and Tragedies

  • December 06, 2007

The threat of terrorism, a real estate recession, and man-made disasters all emerged as major stories in the American news media in the third quarter of 2007, according to a new study of press coverage.

While the media continued to pay the most attention to the war in Iraq and the presidential campaign, in the third quarter they also trained more scrutiny on three new threats to the nation's well being—a reconstituted Al Qaeda, the implosion of the sub-prime mortgage market, and crumbling infrastructure, a close look at the third quarter of media coverage by the Project for Excellence in Journalism finds.

Of the three threats, terrorism generated the most attention. It emerged as the quarter's fourth-biggest story, after the war debate, the presidential campaign, and coverage inside Iraq. Based partly on events (strange devices confiscated at airports) and partly on perception (Homeland Security boss Michael Chertoff's “gut feeling” about an attack), coverage of U.S. terror concerns nearly tripled from the second to the third quarter.

Coverage of the troubled U.S. economy also came close to tripling from the second quarter to the third. The chief catalysts here were the housing and mortgage crises, and the related “credit crunch.”

Read the full Third Quarter Report of PEJ's News Coverage Index on the Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.