The Project for Excellence in Journalism just published the results of their study of news coverage for the first quarter of 2007. The breakdown of stories covered, and the amount of time dedicated to those stories, reveals the priorities of the three main cable news networks. The standout amongst the statistics is that Fox News broadcast significantly less coverage of the war in Iraq than MSNBC or CNN. In fact, Fox devoted less than half the airtime to the subject than MSNBC, whose coverage led the pack.
Percent of Newshole Devoted To Four Major Stories on Cable TV
Dec. 31, ’06 – Mar. 31, ’07
|Iraq War Total||2008 Presidential Campaign||U.S. Attorney Firing||Anna Nicole Smith|
There is probably no one who would dispute that the war in Iraq, and the Washington debates fueled by it, is the single most important news event of the year (and several preceding years). It dominated the media producing about three times as much coverage as the next most covered story. And yet Fox relegates it to an also-ran, preferring to spend nearly as much time on Anna Nicole Smith as on the war.
Fox also minimized the most serious parade of scandal that has faced the U.S. Justice Department since the Nixon Administration (see John Mitchell and the Saturday Night Massacre). Practically ignoring the scandal surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the firing of U.S. Attorneys by a partisanly-motivated Justice Department, the 2% of airtime Fox afforded the affair was half of what CNN gave it and a quarter of MSNBC’s scheduling.
The one area in which Fox excelled was in coverage of departed pin-up/heiress, Anna Nicole Smith. Fox’s coverage of Smith approximately doubled the coverage of CNN and MSNBC. Now we know why they had to leave the war footage on the cutting room floor.
These results are an affirmation of the Fox slogan, “We Report, You Decide,” so long as you leave out the first part. However, this may be consistent with their programming strategy which appears to be to drain their reports of as much substance as possible so that you are left unable to decide.
Update: The PEJ also released a study this week that measures the coverage of the presidential candidates. While there was more time spent on Democrats, don’t be too hasty drawing conclusions:
“…nearly two-thirds of the election coverage (61%) was specifically about candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. This was nearly three times those that focused on Republican candidates (24%). Another 13% dealt with both parties. […] conservative talkers, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage were the most Democratic focused of all-75% of their time on Democrats and only 13% focused mainly on Republicans.”
So while there was more “coverage” of Democrats, that extra focus really translates into more time bashing them. If you weren’t already confused, the right-wing media machine is more than happy to further muddy the waters.
O’Reilly Responds: ThinkProgress has a transcript of O’Reilly explaining that the reason Fox has less coverage of Iraq is because another bomb going off “doesn’t mean anything.” The rest of the transcript is equally as disgusting.