A midterm election cycle quickly becoming known for harsh rhetoric and sharp personal attacks once again finished as the No. 1 story last week. But it had to share the media spotlight with a live dramatic rescue that became the ultimate reality show.
For the week of October 11-17, the 2010 campaign accounted for 28% of the newshole, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That is up slightly from the previous week (25%) and marks the fifth consecutive week in which the election has been the No. 1 subject, confirming its dominance as the fall's top news story.
Last week, the news was driven by several crucial debates among Senate candidates—including Christine O'Donnell versus Chris Coons in Delaware and Sharron Angle versus Harry Reid in Nevada. New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino generated headlines with disparaging remarks about homosexuals, and an underlying theme of the coverage last week was that the 2010 campaign has been distinguished by a particularly pungent brand of politics.
The week's No. 2 story (filling 21% of the newshole) was the rescue of 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped underground for 69 days. The rescue proved to be one of the rare mega-stories that offered nothing but good news, and it was viewed live around the world. In the U.S., the story filled one-third of the airtime studied on cable news for the week.
The third-biggest story was the economy (12%), which last week focused on the housing crisis and particularly on charges of fraudulent foreclosure practices. One key element of the narrative was the news that the 50 state attorneys general were opening an investigation into those allegations.
Read the full report, Political Rhetoric and a Dramatic Rescue Lead the News on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.