PEJ News Coverage Index: Dec. 28, 2009 - Jan 3, 2010, The Near-Miss Plane Plot Leads Newspaper Headlines

  • January 05, 2010

The expanding fallout from the Christmas Day terror plot dominated newspaper coverage last week, according to a special News Coverage Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

From December 28-January 3, stories connected to the attempt to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 filled 23% of the front-page coverage in the 16 papers studied in PEJ's weekly index—outdistancing coverage of the economy, at 16% of the newshole. Although PEJ's weekly NCI normally includes more than 50 media outlets in five different sectors, this report focused solely on the news agenda in the nation's newspaper front pages. PEJ's index studies papers that represent a mix of geography and circulation categories to get a sense of the differing editorial priorities of different kinds of papers.

As the story evolved, last week's newspaper coverage of the terrorist incident more than tripled the level from the previous week (7% from December 21-27). Some of that increase came from growing questions about why the system failed to heed warnings about the attacker. But some of the focus shifted as time passed to domestic politics and the impact on the Obama Administration. By the week's end, the coverage was pointing at a different and dangerous front in the battle against international terror—Yemen.

The economy, a subject which frequently generates major attention from the newspaper sector, was the No. 2 newspaper story last week. The largest component of that coverage was a look at how the recession was impacting business, and that narrative was driven in part by stories in smaller local papers.

Read the full report The Near-Miss Plane Plot Leads Newspaper Headlines on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.