PEJ News Coverage Index: June 14-20, 2010, The Gulf Disaster Becomes a Beltway Story

  • June 23, 2010

Coverage of the Gulf oil disaster took a decidedly political turn as the story entered its ninth straight week among the top news events.

The spill accounted for 44% of the newshole from June 14-20, its highest level of coverage to date, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That's up markedly over the previous week (34%) and represents the most coverage for any story since the landmark health care bill passed Congress, filling 45% of the newshole from March 22-28.

After weeks in which the cleanup, containment and impact of the spill dominated the Gulf coverage, the narrative pivoted substantially last week.  Nearly half of the spill coverage focused on BP's role in the disaster and its responsibilities moving forward. The next largest portion, about a third, focused on the federal government's actions and response.  Only about one-fifth concerned the ongoing attempts to fix the leak and clean up the mess.

The spill also generated more than six times as much coverage as the week's No. 2 story. The U.S. economy filled 7% of the time on television and radio, and space online and in print, led by news about housing and jobs. The No. 3 story, at 5%, was the war in Afghanistan, with reports of vast mineral discoveries in the country and General David Petraeus's fainting spell in the Capitol.

Read the full report, The Gulf Disaster Becomes a Beltway Story, on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.