Anna and the Astronaut Trigger a Week of Tabloid News | Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ)
The bosomy blonde’s demise consumed a staggering 50% of the cable newshole PEJ examined on February 8 and 9. Those are levels reminiscent of those pre-9/11 celebrity sagas—think Princess Di and JFK Jr.
The story lines ran from police procedural to racy, with a little bit of moralizing about celebrity culture—what killed her, who fathered her infant, and where her money would go. The February 9 headline in the New York Post, “CSI Probe in Siren Shocker,” seemed to sum it up.
Had it fallen more in the middle of the week, the Smith coverage, which made up 9% of the newshole in just two days, would have doubtless knocked news of events in Iraq out of the No. 2 spot in the news (at 10%) and come close to knocking out the debate at home over Iraq strategy as the No. 1 story of the week (it made up 12%). It was enough to overshadow what had been a good tale of sex and almost murder that preceded it —news that diaper-clad astronaut Lisa Nowak allegedly tried to kill a romantic rival. Nowak still made the Index’s top five story list (6%). Coverage of the 2008 White House race, which got a boost from Rudy Giuliani’s statement of candidacy, was the fourth biggest story at 8%.
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