PEJ News Coverage Index: May 25 - 31, 2009, Sotomayor Spin Wars Dominate the Narrative

  • June 02, 2009

The May 26 nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to become the nation's first Latina Supreme Court Justice not only topped the news agenda last week. As a ritual set piece of Washington, the nomination also offered a clear look at the velocity and ferocity of the new media ecosystem in 2009, one forged by the election, by the rise of social media and cable, and even more than ever defined by speed, political surrogates, diversity and argument.

From May 25-31, Sotomayor accounted for 24% of the newshole as measured by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That exceeded coverage of North Korea's nuclear test (12%), the troubled economy (9%), GM's impending bankruptcy (7%) and a California ruling affirming a gay marriage ban (5%), in PEJ's weekly News Coverage Index.

So far in 2009, only one story not about the economy or the new Obama administration—the late April swine flu outbreak—has generated more weekly coverage than last week's historic nomination.

The nominee herself also emerged as a singular presence in the news according to the numbers. Sotomayor was the lead newsmaker in 14% of the week's stories—meaning she was featured in at least 50% of those stories. That is twice as many as the President who selected her last week (7%), and it marks the first time since his inauguration that anyone exceeded Barack Obama as lead newsmaker in any given week. Until now, no one had even come close.

Read the full report Sotomayor Spin Wars Dominate the Narrative on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.