Chart of the day

Excellent Poli Sci Perspective post in Wonkblog from Danny Hayes about media coverage of gun control.  Here’s the key chart:

gun control stories week

And the perspective:

The decline of media coverage after the demise of the Senate bill underscores a point that’s worth repeating about the factors that tend to drive journalists’ attention to policy debates.

The inherent newsworthiness of an event – such as the nearly unfathomable slaughter of 20 first-graders – is not enough to sustain the media’s interest. If it were, we’d still be reading front-page stories about Newtown: Nothing that has happened in Washington in the last seven months has been more horrifying, tragic, or gripping than what took place on that Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Neither can the crusade of an activist, no matter how compelling, achieve what a good dust-up on Capitol Hill can. It’s possible that Giffords’ weeklong national tour earlier this month, designed to (re)mobilize support for expanded background checks, arrested the decline of gun control coverage. But despite a photo-op of the former congresswomanfiring a pistol at a Las Vegas range – about as close as you can get to journalistic catnip – there is no evidence that it regenerated the media’s interest.

The media’s interest in policy debates generally lasts only as long as politicians are willing to spar in front of the cameras. And although Democrats have pledged to continue pursuing stricter gun laws, the prospects for meaningful legislation – and thus a meaningful battle – appear uncertain.

Gun control advocates have by no means given up. Giffords, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and a coalition of allies are continuing their efforts to overcome Republican and NRA opposition to stricter gun laws.

But in the near term, they’re unlikely to get much help from the media. Once the Senate gun control bill died in April, so did the story.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Chart of the day

  1. Deborah Ferry says:

    This is a real problem in our country. People bounce from one headline news story to another. As their attention is forced to change by the media, there is no time for the meaningful dialog needed for change. Imagine if the civil rights movement was given its 15 seconds and then dropped.

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