When the top stories of the quarter are put into the larger category of general topics, even broader patterns emerge. The war in Iraq becomes part of a larger grouping of coverage of U.S. foreign affairs. The campaign becomes part of a broader topic of politics. Anna Nicole becomes part of a grouping that includes all celebrity and entertainment.
How do those categories break down?
What those groupings reveal is that a handful of broad topics command a lion’s share of the media’s time. U.S. Foreign policy, foreign events and politics, for instance, made up 39% of the media agenda in the second quarter. Add in crime, and you have another 10%, or four topics filling half the media newshole in the PEJ Index.
Government was the fifth biggest topic (6%). Immigration (5%), health/medicine (4%) and the media came next (4%).
What comes below that—or what gets relatively little coverage—is also worth noting.
Lifestyle, disasters, and business came next on the list (9th through 11th), making up 3% of the newshole each.
The economy was the 15th most covered topic (2% of the newshole). The environment was 16th (also 2%). Celebrity entertainment came next (again 2%), followed by domestic terrorism (18th at 2%).
That figure challenges the notion that the media is all about tabloid celebrity, at least when it comes to general interest news outlets, though the index does contain something of tilt toward more hard news media outlets.
A host of issues that might strike certain groups as major areas of public concern are further down the list. Science and technology was 19th out of 26 topics (1%). Education, a major concern for parents, was 20th (1%). Transportation was 24th (1%). The issue of development or sprawl was the least covered topic of all in the second quarter.
Interestingly, the hot-button topics of abortion, gun control, social security, and welfare each received 1% or less of the overall newshole.
Media Sector Summary
(Percent of Newshole)
|Topic||All||Newspapers||Online||Network TV||Cable TV||Radio||Cable and Radio Talk|
|US Foreign Affairs||17%||15%||25%||19%||16%||11%||14%|
|Additional Domestic Affairs*||2||2||2||3||2||4||3|
|Science and Technology||1||2||1||2||<1||1||<1|
*Additional Domestic Affairs consists of, but is not limited to, abortion, gun control, welfare, social security, labor, poverty, riots, protests, charity, privacy rights, and drug trafficking. Individually, each of these topics makes up 1% or less of the overall newshole.
** Miscellaneous consists of topics such as specific mishaps, parades, celebrations, obituaries, typical weather reports, and oddball news.
Note: There is a minor difference between the 2nd quarter percentage of newshole for “Immigration” as a Broad Topic (5%) and “Immigration” as a Top Story (6%). This difference is due to the fact that some news stories are about the national debate on immigration, but are focused on some element of immigration such as the impact on the economy, crime, diplomatic relations, or the political ramifications of the debate in Congress. Those types of stories are coded as “Immigration” for its Top Story, but for the appropriate Broad Topic such as politics, crime, or business.