PEJ: Swine Flu Consumed Media Coverage

Coverage accounted for 31% of the newsholes for the 55 news outlets in report for the week ending May 3

Much-hyped coverage of the president's first 100 days, as well as the ousting of the chairman of Bank of America and the bankruptcy of Chrysler, were overshadowed by the "frantic" coverage of the swine flu.

Broadcast network news programs gave it the most coverage -- 43% of their news holes, with morning news giving it the most at 50% vs. 36% for the evening newscasts. Researchers said that was consistent with medical coverage generally, with broadcast nets devoting a higher percentage to health stories than other media, perhaps reflecting the fact that their audiences skew older in the evening and female in the morning, PEJ said.

That is according to the latest Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) News Coverage Index for the week ending May 3.

That coverage accounted for almost a third (31%) of the newsholes for the 55 news outlets whose content was studied for the weekly report PEJ.

That was over three times the coverage devoted to the second-biggest story, the economic crisis (10%), followed by first 100 days coverage (9%), Republican Senator Arlen Specter's defection to the Democrats (also 9%) and Chrysler and other bad news from the auto industry (8%).

The coverage eventually extended to whether the media had overcovered the story. "[C]overage expanded so rapidly that toward the end of the week, a backlash against perceived press excess began to materialize," said PEJ.