Health Care, Afghanistan Emerge as the Summer's Big Stories

  • August 25, 2009

Two stories that have been cementing their status as the leading domestic and foreign policy concerns facing the country were at the top of the news agenda last week, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

For the fifth consecutive week, the debate over health care proved to be the No. 1 story in PEJ's News Coverage Index, filling 28% of the newshole from August 17-23. The health care debate also continued to overshadow the economic crisis as the top domestic story. The war in Afghanistan—which has eclipsed Iraq as the main focus of international attention—was the No. 3 story at 10%, exceeding its record level of the previous week and generating its highest amount of coverage since the PEJ began the News Coverage Index in January 2007.

While last week's health care skirmishing generated almost as much attention as it had the week before (when it was 32%), the narrative shifted markedly. If “death panels” and town hall eruptions fueled the storyline a week earlier (Aug. 10-16), the term “public option” and a growing consensus that the White House was losing the political/message battle permeated coverage last week. Indeed, Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats not only faced criticism from conservative sources; they also endured friendlier fire from liberal commentators like comedian Bill Maher and MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. 

Read the full report Health Care, Afghanistan Emerge as the Summer's Big Stories on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.