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PEJ Study: Republican Candidates See Coverage Surge

The Democrats' dominance of news coverage of the presidential race all but disappeared in the second quarter, according to a news-content analysis by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

In the first quarter, the media-genic Democrat field claimed 61% of campaign coverage compared with just 24% for Republicans. By the second quarter, the Democrats had 42% of the coverage to Republicans' 41%.

On the cable news networks, coverage varied by show, with Paula Zahn spending more time on Democrats and Anderson Cooper more time on Republicans on CNN, according to the index, which is a content analysis of 48 news outlets, including TV, radio, print and online. At Fox News Channel, Bill O'Reilly devoted more time to Democrats, while Hannity & Colmes "gave more time to Republicans."

But MSNBC provided the most campaign coverage, at more then double that of either CNN or Fox News, the PEJ said.

Coverage of the war in Iraq decreased as campaign coverage heated up, dropping by one-third from the first quarter. CNN led that coverage at 18% of its news hole versus 15% on MSNBC and 8% on Fox.

The biggest story in any one week for the second quarter was the Virginia Tech shootings, accounting for 51% of all news coverage for the week of April 15-20, although coverage had all but vanished by the end of the month, the PEJ said.

President Bush's announcement of "The Surge" was the second most dominant story of the quarter in any one week, followed by the firing of Don Imus.

And finally, Paris Hilton's jailhouse soap opera was no match for the first quarter's star saga, the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Smith's was the eighth-biggest story of the first quarter, while Hilton didn't register in the top 10 for the second quarter.