New Data: Media’s Economic Coverage Spikes in Response to GOP Threat

New Data: Media’s Economic Coverage Spikes in Response to GOP Threat

New Data: Media’s Economic Coverage Spikes in Response to GOP Threat

Why did American press coverage of the US economy just go into overdrive?


This is just a quick blog post to flag an important media trend: the American press is finally covering the economy again.

While the recession and unemployment are some of the most significant problems facing the public, the press does not actually prioritize economic coverage very often, outside of crisis events or the economy as politics. But both those dynamics—the threat of real crisis and the intensity of political squabbles over the (typically standard) increase in the debt ceiling—have now put the economy back on top of the press agenda. 

“Not only has the economy become a much bigger story, it is a bigger story no matter where one looks,” notes a new report from Pew. “The topic was the No. 1 subject in all five media sectors studied,” the report stressed, referring to blanket coverage across print, online, network TV, cable and radio.

The economy was far and away the big story last week, accounting 37 percent of the “newshole.” That’s more than triple the coverage of the next biggest item, the NewsCorp hacking scandal. 

Over the past month, in fact, economic coverage has jumped from just one out ten stories to over one out of three:

Political scientists talk about the “agenda-setting function” of press coverage in politics, where almost anything that the press chooses to cover will seem more important, as an issue, to media consumers. But here, the GOP converted a routine housekeeping measure into default brinksmanship, and it looks like the media is affirming that agenda. 

Pew estimates that about 85 percent of this economic coverage is about the debt battle—not the unemployment and recession that form the real threat to most Americans concerned about the economy.

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