PEJ News Coverage Index: Aug. 24 - 30, 2009, The Death of a Liberal Lion Commands the News

  • September 01, 2009

The death of Senator Edward Kennedy both dominated and rearranged the news agenda last week, eclipsing two stories—health care and Afghanistan—that had emerged as big summer news.

Kennedy's death on August 25—the passing of a Senator of nearly five decades, perhaps the nation's most booming liberal voice and the last surviving brother in the Camelot political dynasty—accounted for 27% of the newshole from August 24-30, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Kennedy's death indeed generated more coverage than that of any other political or celebrity figure since PEJ began the News Coverage Index in January 2007. The next closest was pop star Michael Jackson, whose June 25 death accounted for 18% of that week's coverage.

The Kennedy saga was primarily a television event, attracting the most coverage on cable (34%) and network news (35%). And there were numerous storylines for the media to pursue. Along with the tributes, obituaries and the memorial service and burial, the coverage examined his place in the Kennedy family firmament, his legislative achievements and some of his well-known personal problems and failings. In addition, as a senator who made health care reform his primary goal, the press speculated on the impact of his death on the legislative battle in Washington.

Read the full report The Death of a Liberal Lion Commands the News on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.