PEJ News Coverage Index: May 24-30, 2010: Oil Spill Coverage Engulfs the Media

PEJ News Coverage Index: May 24-30, 2010: Oil Spill Coverage Engulfs the Media

Six weeks after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, the Gulf disaster generated its highest level of coverage since the story broke, completely dominating the news agenda.

As the drama of devastation, containment and finger-pointing continued to unfold, the mainstream media devoted 38% of its newshole to the spill during the week of May 24-30, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. This marks the sixth week in a row the disaster has made the roster of top stories. And last week's coverage easily exceeded the previous high water mark (20%) during the week of May 3-9.

Moreover, it represents the most attention to any subject since the week of March 22-28, when Congress passed the health care bill and that story filled 45% of the newshole.

Last week the term “top kill” entered the lexicon, as BP tried again—unsuccessfully—to stop the flow of oil from the undersea well. It was also the week when the Obama administration took formal responsibility for mistakes along the way. But even with the president's press conference as a significant newsmaker, the biggest chunk of the coverage still focused on the growing dimensions of the spill and the sputtering effort to stop the flow of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

No other story came close to matching the spill coverage. The No. 2 story was the 2010 mid-term elections (10%) with much of the attention focused on revelations about White House efforts to get Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak to back off of a challenge to incumbent Arlen Specter. (Sestak defeated Specter in the May 18 Democratic primary.)

The No. 3 story was the economy, as global jitters revolving around fragile European markets impacted stock values at home. It generated 6% of the week's coverage.

Read the full report, Oil Spill Coverage Engulfs the Media on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies


Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.