Skip to main content

TV Drills Down on Oil Spill

The ongoing oil-spill disaster in the Gulf dominated the Project for Excellence in Journalism news index for the week of May 24-30, claiming 38% of the news hole for PEJ’s roster of measure media — far more than the combination of the next four biggest stories: elections (10%), the economy (6%), immigration (5%) and North Korea (3%).

In fact, the story was more dominant than at any time since it broke six weeks ago and drew more coverage than any story since the March passage of the Health care bill, according to PEJ’s survey of 52 print, online, network TV, cable and radio news sources.

There was much new to report, including the “top kill” effort that failed to cap the spill and the president’s taking responsibility and stepping-up action and oversight, though the majority of the focus was on the environmental impact and cleanup.

PEJ said TV was paying more attention to the spill than print, online or radio. Broadcast network newscasts devoting 50% of their airtime to the story, while cable news channels spent even more time (57%). Some even began a countdown clock, similar to ABC’s countdown during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979-81.

The top newsmakers of the week were the president, with 11% of all stories, followed by Joe Sestak, who beat Arlen Specter for the Democratic Senatorial primary in Pennsylvania (4%), and Hillary Clinton (1%).