Hurricane Earl Leads News Coverage Aug. 30-Sept. 5

By Alex Weprin 

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Hurricane Earl dominated the new cycle the week of August 30-September 5, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s “News Coverage Index.”

The network newscasts led the way with Earl coverage, spending 23% of their time on the Hurricane. The cable networks spent 12% of their newshole covering Earl.

Still, PEJ took issue with the way it was covered, particularly the language used to describe the hurricane as it was preparing to move up the eastern seaboard.

If anything, last week’s coverage proved again that meteorology is tricky and the media walk a fine line between legitimate concern and excessive hype in a story of this type. While Earl clearly posed a significant threat, some of the language and images associated with the coverage heightened an already high level of anxiety.

What were the other top stories?

The economy, the 2010 midterm elections, the Iraq war and the hostage situation at Discovery Channel rounded out the top five.

While the hurricane was the top story on network news, it was the elections that dominated the cable news cycle, taking up 20% of the newshole. Despite only being a major story for one afternoon, the Discovery gunman and hostage crisis filled up 5% of the news cycle.