PEJ News Coverage Index: Feb. 2 - 8, 2009, The News Narrative Turns Bearish on Obama

PEJ News Coverage Index: Feb. 2 - 8, 2009, The News Narrative Turns Bearish on Obama

Two different stories combined to create one major media narrative last week—a new President off to a shaky start.

For the second week in a row the economic crisis was the dominant story in the news, filling 44% of the Feb. 2- Feb. 8 newshole in the weekly News Coverage Index produced by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The only other subject to generate significant attention was a related one, the new Obama Administration at 17% (up from 7% a week earlier).

But both stories contained themes depicted as negative for Obama—problems winning Republican votes on the stimulus package and no fewer than four Presidential nominees tainted by tax problems.

The President seemed to fuel rather than dispel the storyline by admitting “I screwed up” during a round of TV interviews. Obama “has all but lost control of the agenda in Washington at a time when he simply can't afford to do so,” wrote Newsweek's Michael Hirsh. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough went further, wondering if Obama was off to one of the roughest debuts in recent presidential history.

If the storyline seemed to pivot dramatically from a heady inauguration to a rocky transition, that sense was significantly magnified by the two platforms offering instant updates of the Beltway scoreboard, and both of them now firmly ideological. On cable news, a dominant theme among talking heads was Obama stumbling at the starting gate. On talk radio, conservative hosts grew even more aggressive in staking out their opposition to the new President.

Read the full report The News Narrative Turns Bearish on Obama on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

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