It takes an extraordinary story to burst into the news cycle in a week when the Senate rejected a lifeline to the American auto industry, companies from Sony to Bank of America announced stunning layoffs, and Barack Obama tapped his choice to tackle health care reform.
And with the sunrise arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on Dec. 9, that’s exactly what we had. It was a saga of cinematic dimensions—part Sopranos/part All the King’s Men. The governor of the fifth-biggest state was on tape allegedly and profanely talking about selling Barack Obama’s now empty Senate seat, and expressing a desire to use his office to peddle a lot of other things for personal gain as well.
“Blago-gate,” as it was instantly dubbed, filled more than a quarter of the newshole from Dec. 8-14, as measured by the News Coverage Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. For all of 2008, it was the biggest weekly story not related to the election or economy. And it seemed to siphon media attention away from the week’s other big stories.
As a topic, coverage of the economy edged out Blagojevich when stories such as the auto industry, financial meltdown and holiday shopping are all combined. But last week’s economic coverage dropped noticeably from the week before. And coverage of the new Obama Administration, the next-biggest Dec. 8-14 storyline, plunged to less than half the previous week’s total. In a sign of its far-reaching tentacles, the media framed the Blagojevich bust as the Obama team’s first test of crisis management.
Read the full report Blago-gate Dominates the Week’s News on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.