How the Media Have Covered bin Laden's Death

May 05, 2011

In the first three days since the death of Osama bin Laden, the attention given to the event in both traditional and new media has been only nominally focused on the political ramifications of the terrorist’s death.

Instead, the discussion across a broad range of mainstream media, on Facebook, Twitter and in the blogosphere, has centered on trying to sort out what happened and on people’s feelings about it—including significant debate in social media over whether the reports might be a hoax. But so far the coverage has defied the tendency seen in many major national news events to turn quickly partisan.

In the mainstream press, coverage has focused on trying to parse out the details leading up to and during the dramatic raid, and on sorting through the national and international reaction to it. Those two themes together accounted for half the bin Laden coverage since Sunday night, May 1, and through Wednesday, May 4.

On Facebook and Twitter, meanwhile, citizens have used these social media tools to express black humor about bin Laden’s death. The largest share of discussion there, 19%, has involved people sharing jokes. The second largest theme involved the question of whether bin Laden was really dead, and weighing the pros and cons of the proof offered. That discussion accounted for 17% of the conversation.

Read the full report, How the Media Have Covered bin Laden's Death on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

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