Last week, a key Republican senator switched parties, altering the balance of power on Capitol Hill. Barack Obama celebrated his 100th day in office with a prime-time press conference. The chairman of Bank of America was ousted and the Chrysler Corporation declared bankruptcy.
Yet all those stories were overwhelmed by the frantic coverage of a new flu virus that in a matter of days had made its way around the globe and was threatening to become the first influenza pandemic in four decades. From April 27-May 3, the swine flu, or H1N1 as it officially became known, accounted for nearly one-third of the newshole (31%) studied, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
This marked only the second time since January 2007 that a health-related subject led PEJ's weekly News Coverage Index. That other story, now mostly forgotten, was the potential spread of a seemingly dangerous form of tuberculosis by an Atlanta lawyer, and it filled 12% of the newshole from May 27-June 1, 2007.
The dominant story of the year so far, the economic crisis, fell to No. 2 last week, at 10% of the space studied in print and online and time on television and radio. That was followed (at 9%) by the Obama administration with the focus on evaluations of the President's first 100 days. Moderate Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter's defection to the Democrats came next (9%), followed by more bad news from the auto industry (at 8%).
Read the full report Flu Fears Dominate a Week of Big Events on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.