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PEJ: Health-Care Debate Dominates News

The health-care debate was the top news story for the fifth consecutive week, according to the Pew Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) News Coverage Index for the week of Aug. 17-23, but the war in Afghanistan is capturing more of the media's attention.

The economy continued to be the No. 2 story of the week, but the war was right behind at No. 3, nearly doubling its percentage of the news hole in major electronic and print media outlets, and registering its highest share--10%--since PEJ began the index in January 2007. The war led the online news sector, with 20%.

The economy also got a 10% share but just edged out war coverage--PEJ rounds the number for the report.

Afghanistan has become a bigger story in the past three weeks, said PEJ, against the backdrop of the Aug. 20 elections there, claiming 6%, its highest mark up until the jump to 10% and three times the attention paid to the war in Iraq. PEJ's content analysis calls it "a growing sign the press now perceives the conflict as Obama's war as he winds down the U.S. role in the conflict George Bush launched."

The index tracks 55 outlets in five media sectors, print, online, network TV, cable and radio.

The fourth-biggest story of the week was the decision by Scotland to release the terminally ill bomber who had been convicted of blowing up a commercial airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. Coming in at No. 5 was the war on terrorism, led by claims in a book by former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that the Bush administration had him insert some lines in a statement about raising the terror threat level that had political implications for the 2004 election.