By the numbers, the Iraq policy debate was the top news story of the week, filling 14% of the newshole in PEJ's News Coverage Index for July 15-20. (It was the top story in the newspaper (10%), network (19%), and radio (17%) sectors.)
That meant that whatever one thought of the Democrats’ maneuver, this was the second week in a row that the argument over the efficacy of U.S. policy in Iraq was the leading story in the news. That recent comeback has occurred after media coverage of the Iraq debate had diminished noticeably following the May 24 Congressional vote funding the war without including withdrawal timetables.
The second biggest story last week, at 9% of the newshole in PEJ’s News Index, was the 2008 presidential race. It was the top subject in cable news (19%). Those numbers can be attributed, in part, to CNN’s extensive pre-event coverage (or promotion) of the July 23 YouTube debate for Democratic candidates that is being co-hosted by the cable network.
Two warning signs in the war on terror also made the top-five story list last week.
The release of an intelligence report sounding alarm bells about a reconstituted Al-Qaeda threat helped make domestic terrorism the third-biggest topic at 6%. And news of growing instability in Pakistan—a nation that is a nominal U.S. ally, but is also home to growing Islamic radicalism and perhaps the core Al-Qaeda leadership—was the fifth-biggest story at 3%. Sandwiched in between, in the #4 position, was the continued violence inside Iraq (6% of the overall newshole, but the top online story at 13%.)
Thus, if all the Iraq and terror stories were combined, including the instability in Pakistan, about 30% of the newshole last week was made up of coverage of the war on terror in its various permutations.