PEJ News Coverage Index: November 15-21, 2010. With the Election Over, the Economy Tops the News

  • November 23, 2010

Even with no major new developments or numbers to report, the economy remained the top story in the news last week as the media settled into a kind of post-election holding pattern.

From Nov. 15-21, the economy accounted for 11% of the newshole according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That coverage included a handful of storylines, mostly policy-oriented, including the federal debt panel and the debate over Bush-era tax cuts. Stories about the labor and housing situation made the news as well.

Although coverage is far below the peak levels in late 2008 and early 2009 when the prospect of a depression seemed real, the economy has proved to be a resilient and consistent story, never straying off the media radar screen. To date, it is the biggest story of 2010, at 12% of the newshole from January 1 through Nov. 21. And in the past 12 weeks, for example, it has registered as the No.1 or No. 2 story 11 times. 

At times this year, the economy has been overshadowed by a blockbuster news event, only to resurface after that event subsides. After a month in which the debate over health care legislation commanded the headlines, the economy returned to the top slot (8% from March 29-April 4) one week after the measure's passage. The Gulf oil spill disaster dominated the news agenda for months over the summer, but by the week of August 2-8, when the leak was finally stopped, the economy that topped the news agenda, at12%. And while the 2010 elections dominated from Labor Day to Election Day (30% of the newshole), the economy re-emerged as the top story (15%), the week after the voting ended (Nov. 8-14).

The No. 2 story last week, at 10% of the newshole, revolved around efforts by the U.S. to combat terrorism, chiefly a growing public outcry over intensified air safety efforts by the Transportation Safety Administration. Coverage of new frisking and x-ray procedures in airports, which many complained were too invasive, made up most of the coverage. The verdict in the case of the Ahmed Ghailani, first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in a civilian court, generated attention as well.

Read the full report, With the Election Over, the Economy Tops the News on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.