Economy of Coverage

Considering this “mental recession” we’re in, and considering how much we’ve, apparently, been whining about said recession, I was fairly shocked to see the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s news index for this week:

That’s right, folks: apparently, only 3 percent—3 percent!—of this week’s news hole was occupied in the classic American pasttime that is Mental-Recession Whining. Which left us with lots of Whine Time to discuss Steve Schmidt’s promotion to the top spot at Camp McCain (which, as PEJ puts it, “was covered in the context of growing concern about the direction of McCain’s campaign”) and to debate whether Barack Obama is, in fact, an unpatriotic flip-flopper. Take that, recession-of-the-mind!

In light of all the drama, issue-oriented campaign coverage dropped to 13 percent of the newshole…compared with 21 percent the previous week. Here’s the breakdown within that:

The top policy story was Iraq (5% of the newshole), followed by the economy (3%), terrorism/security (2%) and energy (2%). (Immigration, gas prices and guns/crime each accounted for less than 1%.) Coverage of the energy issue, which had been driven by the debate over offshore oil drilling, fell to about one-sixth the level of the previous two weeks.

Sigh. It’s enough to make you want to whine.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.