PEJ News Coverage Index: Feb. 4 - 9, 2007, Anna and the Astronaut Trigger a Week of Tabloid News

Feb 15, 2007

On February 9, about 24 hours after the death of Anna Nicole Smith, CNN curmudgeon Jack Cafferty was reading viewer emails complaining about non-stop cable coverage of that story—and agreeing with them.

“That’s the only story we reported [yesterday] for two solid hours and we weren’t the only ones,” growled Wolf Blitzer’s “Situation Room” sidekick. “Her death was tabloid gold and apparently, we just couldn’t help ourselves.”

“I know a lot of people are complaining about that,” said Blitzer, somewhat defensively. “But a lot of people are also watching.”

For the first time this year, “tabloid gold” fever seized at least some of the news media last week in a significant way, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index from February 4 to February 9. Though it only made up two days of coverage, the sudden death of the Playmate turned heiress turned reality star was the No. 3 story in the news last week, almost edging out a bloody week in Iraq.

And that may be understating the feel of the coverage. The bosomy blonde’s demise consumed a staggering 50% of the cable newshole PEJ examined on February 8 and 9. Those are levels reminiscent of those pre-9/11 celebrity sagas—think Princess Di and JFK Jr.

Read the full article and view charts on the Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

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