Back on January 9, in PEJ's inaugural News Coverage Index, the biggest story was the swearing in of the new Democratic Congress with the first female House Speaker in U.S. history.
But a week later, the debate over President Bush's new Iraq “surge” policy emerged as the dominant news subject. And by late January, the new legislature had disappeared from the list of 10 most covered stories.
But even if the new Congress has largely vanished as a subject, the shift in control of the legislative machinery has had a major impact on the news agenda. The reason was succinctly explained in this March 18 David Broder column: “Ten weeks into the new Congress, it is clear that revelation, not legislation, is going to be its real product,” he wrote. “Democrats find it easier to investigate than legislate.”
That was certainly borne out in the media last week, according to PEJ's News Coverage Index for March 11 to 16, 2007. Four of the top 10 stories were fueled by the new-found investigative power of Democrats on Capitol Hill.
The top story—the spiraling scandal over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys (filling 16% of the newshole)—has been driven by Congressional hearings and further threats of subpoenas. The fifth biggest story—the Iraq war at home, which includes the continuing Walter Reed Hospital fallout (4%)—was given dramatic impetus by the impassioned Congressional testimony of vets and their loved ones.
Read the full article and view charts on the Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.