02/22/2007 - Most Americans feel the press has gone overboard in covering the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Fully 61% believe the Smith story has been overcovered, far more than the number saying that about any other recent story. Even so, a sizable minority (11%) followed Smith's death more closely than any of last week's other top stories. This is on par with the number who cited news about the 2008 presidential candidates (13%) or the Super Bowl (11%) as the stories they followed most closely. The war in Iraq was the top story for the week of Feb. 5, with 30% following it most closely.
These are the principal findings of the first weekly News Interest Index, a new initiative by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The index will build on the Center's longstanding research into public attentiveness to major news stories, adding an important new dimension.
For the first time, the public's news interest can be compared with the news media's agenda through The Project for Excellence in Journalism's News Coverage Index, which monitors the news reported by major newspaper, television, radio and online news outlets on an ongoing basis. PEJ's Index examines news content each week from Sunday through Friday, with the results released every Tuesday. The News Interest Index survey will measure the public's reaction over the weekend (Friday through Monday) with the results reported on Thursdays. The marriage of these two projects provides an unprecedented opportunity to evaluate how the public's appetite for major news stories compares with the amount of coverage the press devotes to these stories.
Data collected since the start of the year suggest that the public and the press are often in agreement about the most important news stories of the day. The Iraq war has consistently been the top-ranked news story both in terms of public interest and press coverage. In the News Interest Index survey for the week of Feb. 5 (conducted Feb. 9-12), 30% of Americans said the situation in Iraq was the story they followed most closely, nearly double the next highest story - winter weather. During that same week, 22% of the news reported across a broad spectrum of media outlets was devoted to the Iraq war (12% to the policy debate and 10% to events on the ground), according to PEJ.
Read full article Too Much Anna Nicole, But the Saga Attracts an Audience on the Pew Research Center Web site.