Anna Nicole Smith's death and the bizarre aftermath continue to fascinate a significant segment of the American public and the mainstream media. During the second full week of coverage of the story, interest remained steady and coverage actually increased - as portions of the legal proceedings concerning her body were carried live by the major cable networks. The public has voiced concern that the story was being over-covered (61% said Smith's death received too much coverage). Nonetheless, the more than one-third of the public who are now following the story closely give the news media high marks for its coverage. This is consistent with other major tabloid stories of the past, where the core audiences for those stories have generally approved of the press coverage.
In fact, the press gets higher ratings for its coverage from the Smith audience than it does from the audiences of any of the top hard news stories of the week. Among the 35% of Americans who followed the Smith story closely, fully two-thirds rate the press coverage as excellent (32%) or good (34%). Only 13% say the press has done a poor job in covering the story. Another human interest story receives high ratings from its primary audience as well. Those who closely followed the rescue of three climbers stranded on Oregon's Mt. Hood also approve of the media's coverage of that story. Fully 25% say the media did an excellent job and another 54% say they did a good job.
The press receives lower ratings for its coverage of Iraq from those who were following that story closely - 13% rate the coverage excellent, 37% say it's been good. Reports about sub-par conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center receive similar ratings from those following the story closely - 10% excellent, 39% good. The public also gives the press higher grades for its Smith coverage than for its reporting on the 2008 presidential campaign and on the mounting tensions between Iran and the U.S. Roughly half of those following each story give the press excellent or good ratings for its coverage.
High press ratings for tabloid stories are not unusual. The press received similarly high marks for its coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder case and, more recently, the murder of Laci Peterson.
Read Anna Nicole Audience Praises Press Coverage on the Pew Research Center Web site.