The passing of pop music star Michael Jackson has been the hot topic and may have even seemed like the only topic covered in recent days by the national media. And for the most part, having that impression was accurate.
From Jackson's death on June 25 through the day of his highly publicized memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on July 7, the broadcast primetime news programs - ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson," "CBS Evening News" and "NBC Nightly News" allocated one third of their broadcast time excluding commercials (34 percent). (See results here) That's 270 minutes or the equivalent of nine whole news broadcasts without commercials.
Over those 13 days, which included the Fourth of July holiday, news about combat in Afghanistan and Iraq received the second-most coverage, but only a quarter of that pertaining to Jackson's death. The networks devoted at least two minutes to Jackson every single night for that time period.
Other prominent news topics included Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's resignation, news about President Barack Obama, Bernard Madoff's sentencing and revelations about South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's scandal. None came even come close to the attention Jackson received.
In fact, the unrest over last month's Iranian elections and saber-rattling by the North Koreans on and around July 4 were barely blips on the broadcast network's radar screens. The Iranian situation, which had led the news, was relegated to just 9 minutes 44 seconds over three networks. Jackson was covered nearly 30 times more (4 hours 34 minutes 30 seconds to just 9 minutes 44 seconds).
Of the three networks, CBS led the way with the most coverage, dedicating an hour and 38 minutes of four hours and 24 minutes of airtime - 37 percent of all coverage. NBC gave just two fewer minutes with an hour and 35 minutes of coverage out of four hours and 48 minutes - 33 percent. And, ABC offered the least, an hour and 21 minutes of coverage out of four hours and 22 minutes - 31 percent.
Ironically, CBS later pointed out that Jackson's death had dominated the news cycle and that the network had covered little else. The "Evening News" attempted to wrap-up events that it had missed over the previous two weeks in a two-minute segment on its July 8 broadcast.
"Michael Jackson's sudden death and the mystery surrounding it captivated the world, or much of it, eclipsing other news," "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric said.
CBS correspondent Jeff Glor noted Obama's overseas travels, unrest in western China, climate change legislation that narrowly passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and bicyclist Lance Armstrong's success in the Tour de France as some of the overlooked key events.
The amount of coverage was a recent subject of irritation for Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who launched into a rant about it, referring to Jackson as a "low life," and labeled him a "pervert", "child molester" and a "pedophile" in an interview with CBS 2 of New York on July 6.
That reaction prompter Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, to propose a resolution honoring Jackson, which she had announced at the July 7 Los Angeles memorial service. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., came out against the Jackson-Lee resolution on July 9.
"I don't think it's necessary for us to have a resolution," Pelosi said to reporters during her weekly press conference according to Fox News.