PEJ News Coverage Index: Mar. 9 - 15, 2009, Media Focus on Economic Villains: Bonuses, Bernie and Blather

  • March 17, 2009

In a week highlighted by a rise in the stock market and a showdown between a comedian and cable host, the financial crisis was again the top story in the news—by a wide margin.

The economic meltdown, with its spreading storylines, accounted for 35% of the newshole from March 9-15, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Related stories, such as the Bernard Madoff scandal and problems in the auto industry, added another 8%, as measured by PEJ's weekly News Coverage Index, an examination of 55 different mainstream news outlets across five media sectors.

Last week, the narrative seemed to focus more on what had been a smaller but ongoing element, the hunt for people or institutions that appear to embody the nearly unbridled excess that contributed to the unraveling of the financial system.

One earlier example was former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, who generated attention and scorn for spending more than $1 million to refurbish his office. Or troubled Citigroup, recipient of billions in bailout money, which made headlines with plans to buy a $50-million jet—before reversing course.

Last week, that spotlight moved back onto insurance giant and multiple-bailout recipient AIG, which was lampooned as a financial “black hole” by late night host Jay Leno. Over the weekend, AIG also made front-page news that provoked populist and political outrage after revelations the company would pay a reported $165 million in bonuses despite taking $170 billion in federal funds, and the storyline appeared to be spilling over into this week as week as well.

Read the full report Media Focus on Economic Villains: Bonuses, Bernie and Blather on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.