in US, Iraq war is the top story for 2007 - but little coverage of Iraqis

by Joe Strupp, Editor and Publisher

The Iraq War was the top news story during the first four months of 2007, according to a study released Friday by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which stated such coverage "dwarfed all other topics in the American news media."

But the PEJ News Coverage Index, which has been offering such statistics on a weekly basis since the beginning of the year, noted that more than 80% of such war-related news has been focused on Americans, including those creating policy, fighting in the war, or among those affected at home. "Only about 1 in 6 stories about the war has primarily been about Iraqis, whether it be their government, their lives, or their casualties," the report stated.

War-related coverage accounted for 22% of the newshole in the sample news outlets, which included 13 daily newspapers, the three major cable news outlets, four major television networks, radio networks, and top online sites.

The second-most covered story was the 2008 presidential campaign, with 7%; followed by the fired U.S. attorneys, at 4%; Iran and the CIA Leak case, with 3% each; and the death of Anna Nicole Smith, Democratic takeover of Congress, and weather-related stories taking 2% a piece.

'"The findings, among other things, show how the Iraqi war hangs over the presidency of George W. Bush and all other political activity in Washington," the report stated. "They also suggest the extent to which the U.S. media is covering war from Washington, and with a U.S.-centric lens."

PEJ's other major findings include:

* 55% of all Iraq war coverage has been about the political debate raging in Washington. While 32% has focused on events in Iraq, more than half of that coverage has been about U.S. troops there.

* Coverage of the Democratic presidential hopefuls has outweighed that of the Republican candidates, 61% to 24%. At least 90% of the 2008 campaign stories have been "about tactics and horse race, rather than policy or character."

* The three cable news networks have revealed noticeably different news priorities. The Fox News Channel spent the most time on Anna Nicole Smith, CNN was most devoted to Iraq, and MSNBC focused most extensively on Beltway politics.

* By contrast, the lineup of the three major broadcast networks' nightly newscasts are "nearly indistinguishable in terms of what subjects are covered. If there are differences, they are in story presentation and anchor qualities."

* The online news sites "consistently offer their users the broadest news agenda and widest range of international news. It was the only news platform to devote more coverage to events inside Iraq than to the political debate over the war."

Among individual presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton had more mentions in story headlines or leads with 742, compared to Barack Obama at 672 and John Edwards with 249. John McCain led Republican candidates with 284 stories naming him in the lead or headline, followed by Rudolph Giuliani with 266, and Mitt Romney at 241.

The complete report is available at the PEJ Web site, www.journalism.org.

article originally published at http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=....

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey