Majority of cable, radio airtime devoted to 2010 election

Michael Calderone
October 26, 2010
Election coverage heats up
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Election coverage heats up

As the 2010 midterms approach next week, the national media are consumed by politics.

The battle for Congress dominated all media platforms this past week, including newspapers, network television and online outlets, accounting for 38 percent of coverage.

And on cable news networks and talk radio—home to more ideological shows—the majority of coverage was devoted to campaigns, at 57 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

With such intense focus on Election Day, it's no wonder other stories aren't getting as much play these days.

The Upshot reported Monday that WikiLeaks' Iraq documents dump—the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history—barely registered on the Sunday chat shows, all of which focused instead on politics. (The Iraq documents, including new details about civilian casualties and torture, accounted for just 2 percent of coverage across all five platforms. That's one-sixth the share of coverage of the organization's release of classified Afghanistan documents in August.)

Election dominates cable news
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Election dominates cable news

Mark Jurkowitz, associate director for the Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism, wrote in the weekly study that "both of the central media narratives of this campaign gained momentum last week: The battle for control of the [S]enate, highlighted by a number of very close races in crucial states; and the nasty tenor of many of these campaigns, including everything from sharp-elbowed ads to personal attacks."

But when cable news hosts weren't talking politics, many—especially on Fox News—were busy chewing over the firing of a cable news pundit.

NPR's controversial firing of its news analyst (and Fox contributor) Juan Williams, for saying he gets nervous flying with Muslims, was the second-biggest cable story of the week at 13 percent. Williams clocked in as the No. 2 headline-maker of the week, behind President Obama.

Fox News, which just gave Williams a $2 million contract, doesn't appear to be giving up on the story, which plays into a conservative-friendly narrative of the liberal media harshly enforcing political correctness.

On Monday, Jesse Watters—a producer on Fox's top-rated "O'Reilly Factor"—ambushed NPR Chief Executive Vivian Schiller and fired off questions about the decision.  You can watch below:

(Photo of Kendrick Meek, Democrats' Senate nominee in Florida, surrounded by reporters last week: AP/Alan Diaz)