Last week’s culmination of the hotly contested 2010 midterm election season proved to be the biggest story in two years, filling 57% of the newshole from November 1-7, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Indeed, coverage of the historic election—which turned control of the U.S. House over to Republicans and was characterized as a “shellacking” by President Obama—registered as the fourth-biggest weekly story since PEJ began its News Coverage Index in January 2007. The others all involved the 2008 presidential campaign. The Democrats’ nominating convention and the surprise announcement of Sarah Palin as the GOP vice-presidential nominee filled 69% of the newshole from August 25-31, 2008. As the media scrambled to become acquainted with Palin, the story filled 58% from September 1-7, 2008. And on the week that Obama became the nation’s 44th president (November 3-9, 2008), election-related themes filled a whopping 76% of the newshole.
Last week, as Republicans gained about 60 seats in the House and six in the Senate, the narrative shifted away from the numbers to bigger questions. Analysts painted a picture of a weary, angry and divided electorate, and questioned the prospects for compromise and a working relationship between the chastened president and a new Republican leadership in the House.
And the tea party, which generated considerable media attention in the run-up to the voting, took something of a back seat in the post-election coverage. In some of the races that generated significant coverage—the Nevada and Alaska Senate contests, for example—the media narrative pointed to the problems for tea party candidates Sharron Angle and Joe Miller.
Read the full report, Midterm Results are the Biggest Story in 2010 on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.