To a degree not seen in the mainstream press, the controversy over the lower Manhattan mosque has touched a raw nerve in the social media. Indeed, August 23-27 marked the third straight week that the intersection of politics, religion, terrorism, and 9/11 memories has made the issue one of the top subjects in the blogosphere.
For the week of August 23-27, almost a quarter (23%) of the news links on blogs were about the mosque, making it the No. 1 subject, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That marks the most attention to the topic since the mosque debate emerged among bloggers in early August.
In each of those three weeks, the debate narrative has been somewhat different. The first week was dominated by comments from opponents of building the mosque a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site. The next week, the other side weighed in as mosque supporters led the conversation. And last week, bloggers on both sides of the issue took part in a discussion that was as much about the motives of those having the argument as the mosque itself. Many supporters of the mosque claimed that opponents were motivated by politics or hatred of Islam, while other bloggers suggested that the charges of racism against Muslims were unfair.
The trajectory of the subject in the blogosphere reflects a significantly higher level of attention than in the mainstream press. While the controversy has generated major attention among bloggers for three weeks, the percentage of newshole devoted to the same topic has decreased each week in the traditional press according to PEJ's News Coverage Index.
During the first week the controversy erupted as part of the national discourse (August 9-15), the topic filled only 2% of the mainstream press' newshole. That same week in blogs, however, it was the No. 2 subject, at 18% of the week's links. The next week, August 16-22, the story jumped to the top of both the agenda of the mainstream press (15% of the newshole) and blogs (14% of the links) as it seemed to consume a large amount of the public discussion that week.
Read the full report, The Mosque Debate Continues to Galvanize the Blogosphere on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.