Last week, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell to a 12-year low, coverage of the ever-worsening economic crisis shifted again to yet a new narrative.
Led by falling stock prices, the financial meltdown accounted for 43% of the newshole from March 2-8 as measured by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That is up modestly from the previous week when the story registered at 38% of the newshole.
In the six full weeks since President Obama's inaugural—January 26-March 8—the economic crisis has accounted for 43% of the newshole. (And that does not include related stories, such as the U.S. auto industry or Obama's February 24 speech to Congress.) That is roughly six times more than the next biggest story—the logistics and evaluations of the new administration—which registered at 7%.
These numbers for the floundering economy in 2009 conjure up comparisons to the Presidential election in 2008. It is an ongoing saga that shows no signs of abating (at least the campaign had an ending date) and is consuming the overwhelming share of media attention. In the same period in 2008—one that included Super Tuesday and other key primaries—the election filled 46% of the newshole, and the economy was the second-biggest story at 6%. The numbers are remarkably similar.
Aside from the sheer gravity of the situation—comparisons to the Great Depression are increasingly creeping into the media narrative—the other striking feature in the coverage is the complexity and breadth of the economic problems, which also suggest a story with massive staying power. Last week marked the fourth time in four weeks that a different component of the crisis was the top storyline.
Read the full report Falling Stocks and Rising Rush Fuel the News on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.