There they go again. As I keep mentioning, no organization in Washington, D.C., is having a greater impact on serious coverage of religion news than our friends over at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. They keep turning out waves of information, including large chunks of the kind of media analysis work that is catnip to your GetReligionistas.
Sometimes, you simply have to say -- especially to the journalists who frequent this weblog -- here's the Pew stuff, come and get it (in case you haven't already heard). The two new reports are, no surprise, about the recent tour of the American Northeast power grid by Pope Benedict XVI. The study on media coverage notes, focusing on the days April 14-20:
(1) The media devoted significant amounts of time and space to the story. All told, the pope's visit accounted for 16% of the overall "newshole," the time or space available in an outlet for news content. ... In the first four months of 2008, the only stories that received more coverage during a single week were the presidential campaign, the troubled U.S. economy and the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal.
(2) Two story lines dominated the coverage. Out of all the newshole dedicated to the pope's visit, more than half (54%) was comprised of stories that focused on the impact of the clergy sex abuse scandal (37%) or on the relationship between Pope Benedict and American Catholics (17%).
(3) Coverage, for the most part, ignored the pope's relationships with external constituencies. Just 1% focused on the pope's relationships with other religious leaders or other faiths, and only 3% focused on the pope and the Bush administration or the pope and American politics. Only 2% of the coverage made any reference to the U.S. presidential campaign.
That third point is especially interesting, seeing as how Benedict was visiting territory at the very heart of America's left-of-center ecumenical establishment. So, there was no photo op for the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in New York City.
It is also interesting to note the stories that the mainstream press elected not to cover. I'll let you take some guesses about that list and then run over and see the results.
To no one's surprise, the visit -- click here for this particular study -- also improved the pope's popularity in the U.S. It appears that he was a hit with many Protestants.
Check it out.