As it hurtled towards a climactic vote in Congress, the health-care debate accounted for more than a third of the newshole last week, its biggest week of media attention since the News Coverage Index began in January 2007.
Last minute deal-making, vote counting and suspense over a package of measures approved Sunday by the House of Representatives consumed 37% of the newshole during the week of March 15-21, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That topped the previous high of 32%, which occurred twice before: during the week of August 10-16, when tempers were flaring at town hall meetings, and from September 7-13, when President Obama addressed the issue in speech before a joint session of Congress that was marred by heckling.
(The health care news examined in this report does not include the torrent of post-mortem coverage and commentary that followed the March 21 House vote.)
The health care coverage, dominated in turns by arcane parliamentary procedure and questions of federal funding for abortions, was especially intense on ideological cable and radio talk shows, which thoroughly dissected the political implications, win or lose, for the Obama administration.
The second biggest story of the week, at 8%, was the economy—with coverage driven by a proposal to reform federal oversight of banking and investing. Though the level of economic coverage was lower than in previous weeks, this represented the fourth straight week of a health care/economy exacta at the top of the nation's news agenda.
Read the full report Health Care Generates its Biggest Week of Coverage on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.