PEJ News Coverage Index: August 9-15, 2010. The 2010 Midterms Rise; The Gulf Spill Sinks

  • August 17, 2010

Driven by some key primary fights in Georgia and Colorado, continuing signs of disarray among the Democrats and more evidence of an angry public mood, coverage of the 2010 midterm elections led the news last week.

From August 9-15, the elections accounted for 15% of the newshole, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.  In the past month, the midterms have accounted for 8% of the overall coverage, trailing only the economy (13%) and the oil spill (10%).

Last week's coverage may have foreshadowed a changing of the guard in the news agenda. With Labor Day—traditionally considered the kickoff of the serious campaign season—looming, attention to the midterm elections is likely to continue to grow. And last week, the story that had dominated the spring and early summer, the Gulf oil disaster, plunged to 3% of the newshole. That represents its lowest level since the April 20 rig explosion and is a sign that coverage may have finally run its course—barring further surprises.

Last week's No. 2 story was the economy, which continues to generate a sustained level of substantial coverage.  With discouraging news about the state of the recovery and the passage of a bill to save teaching jobs, the story filled 12% of the newshole, the same level as the previous week.

There was a significant drop-off to the No. 3 story (5% of the newshole), the death of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens in the crash of a small plane. In many of the obituaries, Stevens was remembered for his ability to bring federal largesse to his state—something looked on less kindly in the current economic and political environment.

Read the full report, The 2010 Midterms Rise; The Gulf Spill Sinks on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.