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Rhetoric Reigns

Regarding the Jan. 8 assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the killing of six people and the wounding of more than a dozen in Tucson, the part of the story that received the most coverage was the alleged role of political rhetoric. That is according to a report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The story’s many facets, including President Obama’s speech, vigils and a profile of the shooter, accounted for 57% of the total news coverage for the period of Jan. 6-10, the third-highest total since PEJ launched its News Coverage Index in January 2007. The only two bigger stories were both Washington-related: the nomination of Barack Obama and the selection by John McCain of Sarah Palin for VP candidate.

The PEJ index looks at 52 different outlets from five sectors: print, online, network TV, cable TV and radio. According to the index, of that large news total for Jan. 6-10 devoted to the Tucson shootings story, 27% was focused on the argument over the “tenor of political discourse,” which more than doubled the attention paid to the straight news story (12%) and was well above the second-biggest story, a profi le of alleged shooter Jared Loughner and his family (20%).

Cable and talk radio were home to the largest share of the political rhetoric debate, with that topic taking up 57% of the time devoted to the Tucson story on radio and 32% on cable.