PEJ Study: War Coverage Down, Campaign Reporting Up

Article excerpt

Coverage of events related to the Iraq War decreased during the second quarter of 2007, but remained the top news issue, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which noted 15% of stories across print, broadcast and online dealt with Iraq-related issues.

That is down from 22% during the first quarter of the year. As in the first quarter, the Fox News Channel devoted roughly half as much coverage to the war (8%) than its rivals, CNN (18%) and MSNBC (15%).

Rising during the same three-months was reporting on the 2008 presidential campaign, which came in second with 9%. The Virginia Tech massacre, meanwhile, brought the most coverage in a single week, with just more than half of all reporting during that week in April on the shooting spree that left 33 dead.

"And the once-lopsided gap favoring Democrats over Republicans in campaign coverage became more balanced," the study, released Monday, said. "In the derby for 'free media' exposure, Barack Obama overtook fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, who led in the first three months of the year...Among Republicans, the race for media attention was a tight contest among John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. And one unannounced candidate, actor and sometime politician Fred Thompson, emerged as a leading recipient of coverage even without formally entering the race."

Newspapers gave 44% of coverage to Republicans, with 36% to Democrats. Headlines and leads, however, favored Democratic names, with their identities found in 772 of them, while Republicans made up just 371. "On the subject of the presidential campaign, MSNBC stood out, providing more than twice the percent of airtime of either competitor."

The report stated that the Iraq decease "resulted largely from a decline in coverage of the Washington-based policy debate, which fell 42% from the first to second quarter, once the Democrats failed to impose timetables in legislation funding of the war. …