Health care debate loses heat, balanced coverage in its wake


The Project for Excellence in Journalism news coverage study for the week of 3/29/10-4/4/10 chronicled a dramatic pullback in coverage of the health care debate, and with no single stand-out narrative to take its place, newsrooms across all five media produced a moderate amount of coverage for a wide variety of topics. The economic crisis led a crowded field as the #1 overall story.

The economy made it into double-digits, but just barely, and we do mean just: it scored an even 10%. Health care was still enough to grab the #2 spot, but the 9% share was way down from what it had been getting while the votes in Congress were still in doubt.

Weather, energy, the Mideast and other foreign news, troubles for the Catholic church and news of the Obama administration all attracted enough attention to make the overall top ten list.

The reporting was so balanced that even cable TV, which is the most likely of the five to succumb to journalistic tunnel vision, was balanced. It was still on the health care story more than any other, but only gave it 13% of its time. Radio, the second-most likely tight-focus medium, followed suit.

Story Overall Newspaper Online NetTV CATV Radio
Econonic crisis 10% 13% 11% 7% 12% 4%
Health care debate 9% 5% 6% 8% 13% 13%
Eastern floods 6% 3% 8% 10% x 4%
Hutaree militia 5% x 6% 4% 8% x
Energy debate 5% 3% 5% x 7% 7%
Afghanistan 5% 12% x 5% x x
Russia 4% 4% 7% 7% x x
Obama administration 4% x 5% x 4% 12%
Catholic abuse scandal 4% x 5% 6% x x
Domestic terrorism 3% 5% x x 3% x
Education system x 4% x x x 3%
2010 elections x 3% x 3% x x
Supreme Court actions x 3% x x x x
Apple News x x 5% x x x
China x x 4% x x x
2010 Census x x x 4% x x
Iran x x x 3% 3% x
Tea Party movement x x x x 5% 400%
GOP expenses scandal x x x x 4% 4%
Gun control x x x x x 4%
Pakistan x x x x x 3%

Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism