PEJ New Media Index: A Celebrity Crime Case Spurs Outrage in the Blogosphere

  • October 08, 2009

The September 27 arrest of director Roman Polanski in Switzerland—more than 30 years after he pled guilty to having sex with a minor and then fled the U.S.—energized the blogosphere last week. An overwhelming majority of commentators wanted to see Polanski punished for his crime and harshly criticized his supporters in the entertainment industry. 

For the week of September 28-October 2, more than a third (34%) of the links to news-related stories from blogs were focused on the Polanski saga, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That was more than three times the attention that the second-largest story, health care, received from bloggers last week.

While other entertainment industry luminaries have garnered attention in blogs, often when they have passed away, the attention to Polanski was the most devoted to any such celebrity since the NMI was introduced in January. Polanski even outpaced Michael Jackson's passing, which received 27% of the links the week of June 22-26.

Another element that stood out was how long the story lasted in the blogosphere. Most weeks, storylines—especially those involving celebrities—have a one or two-day lifespan before another news event takes over. In this case, however, the conversation lasted all week long, evolving over time from admonishment of Polanski to condemnation of Hollywood to sympathy for the victim.

The second largest story last week, at 11%, was the ongoing debate over health care reform. Most of the attention in the blogosphere focused on the fate of the so-called “public option” and specifically on votes by the Senate Finance Committee to reject amendments that would have included such a proposal. Many bloggers linked to a Washington Post article that indicated the chances for a public option had dimmed.

Read the full report A Celebrity Crime Case Spurs Outrage in the Blogosphere on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.