PEJ News Coverage Index: March 25 - 30, 2007, British Hostages Drive the Top U.S. Story

Apr 05, 2007

On the March 27 edition of NBC’s “Today” show, host Meredith Viera made sure the hostage crisis between Iran and Britain resonated with viewers at home.“

If you think Iran’s capture of those 15 British troops near the Persian Gulf doesn’t affect you,” she cautioned, “you might be in for a rude awakening the next time you fill up your car.”

Later that same day on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” correspondent Jamie McIntyre hammered away at the same issue, noting that the hostage standoff was unfolding just as the U.S. was engaged in major military exercises in the Persian Gulf. “Jittery investors have already sent oil prices to a high for the year on fears that rising tensions could disrupt the 40% of the world’s oil that flows through the Strait of Hormuz,” he added.

The ability to connect Iran’s holding of 15 British sailors and marines to the price at the gas pump is one reason why a crisis that does not directly involve this country was the biggest story overall last week, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index from March 25-March 30, 2007. This new Iranian hostage crisis, which began on March 23, filled 12% of the overall newshole, and was the number one story in three media sectors—online (23%), network TV (11%) and cable (16%).

In a busy news week, the fallout from the eight fired U.S. attorneys was the second biggest story at 11%, making it the third straight week that this subject has exceeded 10% of the overall coverage. Right behind that was the Iraq debate (at 10%), fueled in part by the 51-47 U.S. Senate vote on March 29 to set a troop withdrawal timetable. Next (at 7%) was the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign where a good portion of the coverage was related to the March 22 announcement that Elizabeth Edwards’s cancer had returned. (Katie Couric’s March 25 “60 Minutes” interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards left some viewers complaining that she had been too tough.)

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

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