PEJ News Coverage Index: Jan. 19 - 25, 2009, Symbols and Substance of Obama's First Week Drive the Narrative

  • January 28, 2009

Thanks to nearly non-stop coverage of an historic inauguration held amid major foreign and domestic crises, the new Obama administration dominated the news agenda last week, overwhelming every other story.

Coverage of Obama's transformation from President-elect to President filled 45% of the time on TV and radio and space in print and online the week of Jan. 19-25, as measured by the News Coverage Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. This made it the biggest weekly story since the voters went to the polls on Nov. 4.

Last week's news landscape also interrupted a recent pattern of more diverse and diffuse coverage. In the weeks following the election, the media's attention had been fairly evenly divided among a number of top stories—including the Obama transition, the financial crisis, the Rod Blagojevich scandal and the fighting in Gaza.

By contrast, Obama's ascendance to the Oval Office last week generated three times as much coverage as the No. 2 story—the continuing, if not worsening, economic meltdown, which filled 15% of the newshole. The only other story to generate any really substantial coverage was about U.S. efforts to combat terror, at 8% of the newshole. And it's worth noting that the new President was a significant factor in both the economic story, by virtue of his pushing for a stimulus package, and in the terrorism story, fueled to a large degree by his decision to eventually close the Guantanamo facility.

Read the full report Symbols and Substance of Obama's First Week Drive the Narrative on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.