PEJ New Media Index: Pig Flu and Politics Clog the Blogs

  • May 08, 2009

"Tempest in a teapot, or gather the guns and bottled water and head for the hills?" asked the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money about the true extent of the public health threat posed by the virus commonly known as the swine flu.

Bloggers and social media last week got swept up in the breaking news story-to a degree nearly identical as that in the mainstream press. Almost a third (32%) of the links by blogs and social media sites from April 27-May 1 focused on the issue, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, as did 31% of the week's coverage in the mainstream press.

But while coverage in the mainstream press ranged widely from the threat of a pandemic to the latest count of known cases to the Vice-President's controversial public remarks, commentary inside social media was more narrowly focused. Attention there mainly sounded alarm bells over the outbreak or focused on whether the issue was being overblown.

After the flu, the most talked about topic (at 13% of the links) was Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic Party. Few bloggers of either political persuasion offered support for Specter himself, but many Democratic bloggers used the opportunity to criticize what they saw as the GOP's waning influence.

Read the full report Pig Flu and Politics Clog the Blogs on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.