The Iraq War, while still the major story of the year when all its threads are combined, lost some momentum in media coverage in the second quarter of 2007, according to the Project on Excellence in Journalism's quarterly report.
Taken together, the newshole devoted to three story lines of the war—the debate over policy, events in Iraq itself, and the situation with veterans and families on the homefront—fell in the second three months of the year by roughly a third, to 15% of the Index, down from 22% of the newshole in the first quarter. That decrease resulted largely from a decline in coverage of the Washington-based policy debate, which fell 42% from the first to second quarter, once the Democrats failed to impose timetables in legislation funding of the war.
Attention dropped in all five media sectors studied. And some media that covered the war most heavily in the beginning of the year cut back most. Network evening news, the sector that gave the war the greatest percent of attention in the first quarter, scaled back more than 40% (from 33% in the fist quarter to 19% in the second). For Cable TV, another leader in coverage in the first quarter, the decline was nearly as great (it fell from 23% to 14%, a drop of 39%).
The greatest pull-back was among the combined group of radio and cable talk show hosts that make up the Talk Universe in the PEJ Index. The subject that ate up more than a quarter of their time from January through March was about half that, 13%, in these next three months.
The one sector that stood out for maintaining its focus on the war was online news. Here, where coverage of the war made up a smaller percentage in the beginning of the year, that percentage dropped only slightly, from 23% in the first quarter to 20% in the second. Yahoo News gave the war the most play at 25%. Even on AOL News, the site least devoted to the war, it made-up 17% of the newshole studied. What also stands out online is the specific storyline stressed. Rather than the policy debate in Washington, it was events inside Iraq that led. News from the war torn country was the top story on all five websites studied.