PEJ New Media Index: Amid Disasters, Bloggers Look to Score Political Points

May 13, 2010

In many weeks, there are stark differences between the social and mainstream media news agendas. But last week, the same two stories that dominated the traditional press—the attempted bombing in New York’s Times Square and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—also drew the most attention in the blogosphere.

And in both storylines, much of the commentary from bloggers was overtly partisan and polarizing as they searched for political villains. 

For the week of May 3-7, 16% of the news links on blogs were about the failed car bomb attempt according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. That was followed closely by discussion of the Gulf Coast disaster, which received 15%. (In the mainstream press last week, the terror attempt accounted for 25% of the newshole and the oil leak was 20% according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index.)

Conservatives dominated the commentary about the failed bombing, mainly faulting the Obama administration for how it handled the situation. These bloggers claimed it was too hesitant to call the attack a “terrorist” plot and that Obama had not adequately protected the country from attack. A far smaller group lauded the government for the quick arrest of the suspect.

Liberals voices rang stronger when it came to the oil spill, though conservatives also chimed in. Many pointed to a Washington Post story by Dana Milbank that chided conservative politicians who rail against “big government,” but then ask for government assistance when a catastrophe occurs. Some conservatives pointed to a different Washington Post story which reported that the Interior Department had exempted energy company BP from an environmental analysis last year. Those bloggers charged that the Obama administration deserved blame for faulty oversight. 

Read the full report Amid Disasters, Bloggers Look to Score Political Points on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

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