Yesterday, the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) put out its annual report on the “State of the News Media.” While the 2008 presidential campaign and the debate over Iraq were overwhelmingly the top subjects of cable news, the networks still devoted a substantial amount of coverage to celebrity affairs. For example, the death of Anna Nicole Smith received more coverage than the Valerie Plame scandal, the U.S. attorney purge, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Fox News led the cable networks in the most amount of celebrity coverage and the least amount of Iraq war coverage. PEJ notes:
MSNBC, at least in terms of time spent, was indeed the place for politics in 2007 — by nearly double over its rivals in the percentage of time studied (28% vs. 12% on CNN and 15% on Fox News). Fox, in turn, spent less time on the war in Iraq than the others (10% vs. 18% on MSNBC and 16% on CNN). And it was more oriented to crime, celebrity and the media than its rivals (28% vs. 19% on MSNBC and 16% on CNN).
A look at the Iraq coverage of CNN, Fox, and MSNBC:
As ThinkProgress reported in March 2007, three weeks after Anna Nicole’s death, Fox News and MSNBC still devoted more time to the late celebrity than to the Walter Reed scandal. Fox gave Anna Nicole roughly 12 times more coverage.
Fox may not be ashamed of PEJ’s latest findings. Last year, Fox News’s John Gibson defended his celebrity coverage by accusing reporters — such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper — of “news-guy snobbery.” Gibson claimed that people were “a little weary” of war coverage” and wanted “a little something else.”