PEJ News Coverage Index: September 6-12, 2010. Koran and Cultural Center Put Islam in the News

  • September 14, 2010

Controversies related to Muslim-Americans—one sparked by a Florida pastor's plans to burn the Koran and another by a proposal to build an Islamic community center blocks from ground zero—topped the news last week as the country marked the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Plans by Terry Jones, the pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Fla., to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary by burning the Muslim holy book sparked outrage and prompted condemnation by everyone from Gen. David Petraeus to Sarah Palin. Jones eventually relented, but the controversy, and other signs of anti-Muslim sentiment, represented the No. 2 story for the week of Sept. 6-12, filling 15% of the newshole, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Liberal talk show hosts on radio and cable took a particular interest in the topic.

When combined with the No. 4 story (4%), the furor over a planned Muslim community center and mosque near the World Trade Center site, the two stories accounted for nearly a fifth of the newshole last week, according to PEJ's News Coverage Index, which calculates the column inches and airtime devoted to stories in a broad sample of news media.

Indeed, attention to those hot button issues concerning Islam almost completely overshadowed coverage of the Sept. 11 commemorations themselves, which accounted for only 2% of the newshole.

The sputtering economic recovery and proposals to revive it remained the single largest story of the week, accounting for 17% of the newshole. Proposals by President Obama to extend tax cuts for the middle-class as well as spending more money on road building and other infrastructure projects drove the coverage. Stubbornly high levels of unemployment and other economic news also generated headlines.

Read the full report, Koran and Cultural Center Put Islam in the News on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.