A key excerpt from the Project for Excellence in Journalism's latest weekly News Coverage Index:
Early last week, as the nation awaited a progress report on Iraq, much of the media portrayed President Bush as a besieged leader clinging to an endangered strategy. ABC anchor Charles Gibson—noting that one official described the White House in “panic mode”—began his July 9 newscast by describing mounting challenges to Bush’s war policy.Here is the full PEJ report.
“A growing number of Republicans now say they want a new strategy for the war,” Gibson reported. “In other words, the number of problems for the President is rising while his support is falling.”
By the end of a dramatic week—which among other things included a mixed progress report card on Iraq–and another key GOP Senate defection—the President may have bought himself a few more months. (In September, General David Petraeus will deliver a more formal assessment of the war that could be politically decisive.)
“Bush quiets GOP revolt over Iraq” declared the July 13 headline in the Los Angeles Times. “By reporting some headway in his buildup, he seems to persuade lawmakers to wait for a September evaluation.”
If last week’s frantic political skirmishing failed to resolve the deadlock over Iraq policy, it did force the issue back onto the media front burner—after a considerable hiatus.
The Iraq policy debate was easily the biggest story of the week, filling 20% of the newshole, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index from July 8-13. It was also the top story in every media sector: newspapers 15%; online 17%; network 29%; cable 22%; and radio 20%.
And that marked a major media comeback. Although the war policy debate had been the top story in the first three months of 2007 (comprising 12% of the newshole), coverage slowed dramatically after May 24 Congressional votes to fund the war without imposing withdrawal timetables. That vote was seen as a major political win for the President and seemed to quiet the debate. It also dampened media interest in the political battle over the war. (In the period from May 27 through July 6, Iraq policy debate dropped to the seventh-biggest story, at 3%, finishing just ahead of the saga of the traveling TB victim.)