Report

PEJ News Coverage Index: Mar. 23 - 29, 2009, Geithner's Plan Drives the Narrative

  • March 31, 2009

The media's ever-changing economic narrative shifted again last week, moving away from a reviled insurance company toward a beleaguered Obama Administration official. 

With Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner unveiling a financial sector rescue package and calling for stricter regulation, the economic crisis was once again overwhelmingly the top story last week. It filled 41% of the newshole from March 23-29 as measured by the Pew Research Center's Project in Excellence in Journalism. While that represented a drop from the previous week's coverage (53%), it is in line with the overall level of attention to the crisis (43%) in the two months since Barack Obama was inaugurated. The No. 2 story last week, concerns over Mexican drug smuggling, was about one-seventh as big as the economy.

Geithner's proposal to clean up the so-called “toxic assets” made him the week's second-biggest newsmaker, behind only Obama. At a time when public perception and confidence can have a significant impact on the economy, the Treasury Secretary was looking for what golfers call a mulligan—or in more common parlance, a do-over.  Back on February 10, when he first outlined a financial sector bailout proposal, Geithner was widely panned for poor presentation, criticized for a lack of specifics and blamed for a 382-point drop in the Dow that day. (“Geithner Plan Lacks Freshness and Clarity,” declared the Washington Post headline that pretty much summed up the coverage.)

Geithner's March 23 proposal generated a warmer reception, particularly on Wall Street where the Dow shot up 497 points. “This Time, Geithner's Plan for Banks Makes Sense,” declared the headline on business writer Joe Nocera's New York Times column.  Praise was far from unanimous, though, and a Congressional hearing held during the week kept some of the focus on AIG.

Read the full report Geithner's Plan Drives the Narrative on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.