As advertised, the Project for Excellence in Journalism today unveiled its first news coverage index, a weekly attempt to measure what news stories are dominating the media across a wide range of outlets – from network news coverage to newspapers, radio and Web sites. Typically thought of as a slow news period, the first week of this year was pretty busy and that is reflected by the stories we see topping this initial index – the new Congress convenes (with the first woman speaker), the death of President Ford and the execution of Saddam Hussein.
Any attempt to statistically look at the media is worth keeping an eye on (like the Tyndall Report, which has monitored the network broadcasts for years). And considering the number of sources and methodology PEJ is using, this index cuts a pretty wide swath. It should prove to be a useful (though often predictable) gauge of how loud the volume is on individual stories. This graph from today's report struck me as something to keep in mind:
Different parts of the media had different priorities last week. The Ford funeral, with its pomp and circumstance, was a bigger story on television. It made up 17% of the network coverage and 18% of cable, while accounting for just 4% of the coverage that began on the front page of newspapers (barely making the top five).Each medium plays stories in different ways and what consumers get may depend in part on what they rely on for their news – TV, newspapers or the Internet. Still, this is a nice addition to the universe of media-watching.