Pew's 2008 State of the Media has been released, and while I haven't had time to read much of the report yet, Framing Science has a fascinating and sad breakdown of cable news topic coverage that adds a new element to the discussion Sue and I have been having about illustrating and popularizing science.
Collectively, the broad range of domestic issues including the environment, education, transportation, development, religion, domestic terrorism, health care, race -- everything but immigration -- made up 13% of the time on cable (compared with 26% on network evening news). The three topics of celebrity, crime and disasters, in contrast, accounted for 24% of cable's time.
To put that into perspective, if one were to have watched five hours of cable news, one would have seen about:
* 35 minutes about campaigns and elections
* 36 minutes about the debate over U.S. foreign policy
* 26 minutes or more of crime
* 12 minutes of accidents and disasters
* 10 minutes of celebrity and entertainment
On the other hand, one would have seen:
* 1 minute and 25 seconds about the environment
* 1 minute and 22 seconds about education
* 1 minute about science and technology
* 3 minutes and 34 seconds about the economy
* 3 minutes and 46 seconds about health and health care
While my initial reaction is "well, who cares about illustrating the story when the signal is getting lost in the noise", my second reaction is to wonder if again, we're seeing a lack of content because the media types don't know how to report it. Is it a matter of lack of education, lack of visuals, lack of knowledge, or (what I fear) lack of interest?