PEJ News Coverage Index: October 25-31, 2010. The Media Roar Into the Midterms

  • November 02, 2010

The final stretch of campaigning before the Nov. 2 elections resulted in the biggest week yet for midterm coverage, with political controversy and turmoil emerging as key themes.

For the week of October 25-31, the midterms accounted for 42% of the newshole, up from 38% the week before, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Coverage of this story almost equaled that of the biggest weekly story of the year, when passage of the health care reform bill filled 45% of the newshole from March 22-28.

Certain aspects of the media's campaign narrative carried over from previous weeks, including attention to close U.S. Senate races and negative campaign tactics. But also present this week was a focus on specific races where tea party candidates faced potentially damaging controversies. In addition, the coverage homed in on two cases in which Democratic candidates bucked their party leadership.

As evidence of the dominance of the campaign in the news agenda, the No. 2 story for the week (the economy at 6%) accounted for only about one-seventh as much coverage as the midterms. While there was no overriding economic theme last week, the press continued to cover the questionable foreclosure practices that had been exposed around the country.

A thwarted terror plot—interception of Chicago-bound packages containing explosives—was the third-biggest story (at 5%), despite the fact that news broke late in the week, on October 29. The two packages, which were found in the UK and Dubai, were coming from Yemen and targeted for Jewish houses of worship.

Read the full report, The Media Roar Into the Midterms on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.