The Project for Excellence in Journalism has tallied up its totals for the first three months of 2007, and it is clear that the Iraq conflict is the number one story in the US. Not only did coverage earn the number one slot on the PEJ top ten chart, but two other takes on the subject made the list as well, producing a total which dwarfs all other topics.
PEJ notes that the affect of the war on the US is the key – the debate over Iraq policy was the #1 story, claiming 12% of the newshole. #6 was the Iraq homefront at 3% (dominated by the scandalous conditions at Walter Reed Hospital). Actual happenings in Iraq itself was good for #3 with 7% of the newshole. Combining the three, Iraq claimed almost a quarter of available news time and space with 22%. The 2008 campaign, off to an unusually early and vigorous start, was #2 with 7%. Other stories on the list were the fired US attorneys at #4 (4%), #5 Iran (3%), #7 CIA leak/Plame case (3%); #8 Anna Nicole Smith (2%), #9 Democratic Congress (2%) and #10 severe weather stories (2%).
PEJ notes that on the 2008 campaign front, Democrats are getting the lion's share of coverage 61% to 24%, with a lot of the attention focused on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It also faults the media for already putting the focus on campaign tactics/horse race stories rather than on candidate policy proposals, voting records, or other substantive reporting.