PEJ News Coverage Index: Jan. 18 - 24, 2010, A Disaster and an Election Drive the News

Jan 26, 2010

Two stories combined to account for about half of the last week’s overall news coverage, the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti and the political aftershocks from a Republican Senate victory in Massachusetts.

Filling 27% of the newshole, the situation in Haiti—from chaos on the streets to the expanding U.S. role—was the No. 1 story from January 18-24, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. It was the leading subject on newspaper front pages (19%), online (30%) and in network television (35%), as measured in PEJ’s weekly News Coverage Index, which examines coverage in the most relied on mainstream outlets.

The upset election of Scott Brown—whose January 19 victory was widely seen as dealing a serious blow to health care reform—was the week’s second-biggest story, at 21% of the newshole. It topped coverage of the Haiti in cable news (32%) and radio (30%), largely because of the political orientation of the talk shows in those sectors.

But last week, there was a major difference between what was carried on CNN, which does not air ideologically oriented talk shows in prime time, and what aired on MSNBC, with its liberal prime time lineup, and the Fox News Channel, with its conservative hosts. While Haiti made up about 60% of the CNN coverage studied last week, that subject accounted for about one-sixth of time on MSNBC and Fox.

Read the full report A Disaster and an Election Drive the News on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

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