PEJ New Media Index: Afghanistan and a Charge of Racism Lead the Blogs

Oct 01, 2009

Sparked by an assessment from a top U.S. military commander, bloggers last week weighed in on the debate over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. And for the second week in a row, questions about the role of race in attitudes toward President Obama generated heated commentary.

For the week of September 21-25, 18% of the links were to stories about the situation in Afghanistan according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. This is the highest level of attention to that subject since August 31-September 4 when it made up 26% of the links following an article by columnist George Will advocating a pullout.

Last week, much of the discussion was in response to the September 21 Washington Post report on U.S. and NATO commander Stanley McChrystal's confidential report warning that without additional troops, the likely outcome in Afghanistan would be failure. Most of the bloggers who commented on that issue backed McChrystal's call for bolstering forces.

Afghanistan also ranked highly in the mainstream press news agenda last week, according to PEJ's News Coverage Index. It was the third-largest subject, at 9% of the newshole. It finished behind the gathering of world leaders at the United Nations (10%) and the ongoing debate over health care (9%), neither of which were among the most- discussed issues online last week.

The second-largest topic in the blogosphere, with 11% of the links, involved the previous week's leading subject: Obama and the question of racism. (One week earlier, that subject accounted for 28%.) But this week, rather than former President Jimmy Carter, it was musician Dave Matthews who struck a nerve. In a CNN interview, the singer asserted that blatant racism is everywhere in the U.S. and that it has played a role in motivating Obama opponents, a claim bloggers overwhelmingly condemned.

Read the full report Afghanistan and a Charge of Racism Lead the Blogs on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

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