PEJ News Coverage Index: Feb. 16 - 22, 2009, Fresh Challenges, New Debates Drive a Grim Economy Story

  • February 24, 2009

A month into the Obama administration, the economic crisis appears to shifting from Job One to the worsening mega story of 2009. There were shifting elements in that crisis narrative last week. But the underlying message may be the frightening breadth and depth of the problem.

From February 16-22, coverage of the growing financial turmoil accounted for 40% of the newshole as measured by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism—the fourth week in a row it has reached or exceeded 40%. That represents a modest drop from 47% the week of Feb. 9-15. But those numbers don't tell the whole story.

Last week, it was the variety of grim storylines that seemed as ominous as anything else. With the stimulus package signed into law, that narrative subsided. But as Obama rolled out his mortgage rescue plan, coverage of the housing and foreclosure problems rose up in its place. So did the troubled auto industry, which last week requested billions more in bailout funds. In addition some coverage of the mechanics of the new administration dealt with the economy's impact on Obama's relations with Congress. 

In a sign of how the big domestic crisis is eclipsing coverage of other challenges facing the country, Obama last week approved a major escalation—17,000 additional troops—of the increasingly worrisome war in Afghanistan. That story accounted for only 3% of last week's coverage—about the same amount generated by the fallout over the chimp who mauled a Connecticut woman.

Read the full report Fresh Challenges, New Debates Drive a Grim Economy Story on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.