Report

PEJ News Coverage Index: Sept. 14 - 20, 2009, Health Care Tops the News and Race Resurfaces as an Issue

  • September 22, 2009

On the week when a key Senate Democrat unveiled a long-awaited bill, the battle over health care reform was the No. 1 story—the eighth time in nine weeks that issue has topped the news agenda.

The health care debate, fueled by Senator Max Baucus' proposal, accounted for 17% of the newshole the week of September 14-20, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. While that is a significant drop from the previous week (32%), when Barack Obama's prime-time speech drove the coverage, the subject was particularly dominant in the media sectors that feature talk shows, radio (31%) and cable (28%), according to PEJ's weekly News Coverage Index.

But another storyline, one simmering since the summer's boisterous town hall health care showdowns, emerged in the media narrative last week in a substantial way. It was the sensitive and politically thorny issue of whether race is a factor in some opposition to Obama and his policies. A series of recent events—the September 12 Tea Party protests, Congressman Joe Wilson heckling Obama during his September 9 speech and ex-President Jimmy Carter's assertion last week that race motivates some Obama detractors—triggered a press examination of what is often called the “third rail” of American politics.

Read the full report Health Care Tops the News and Race Resurfaces as an Issue on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.