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Phelps Dominates Olympics News Coverage


There are athletes not named Michael Phelps competing at the Beijing Olympics, but you may not know it going by coverage of the games in the U.S. media.

The eight-time gold medalist swimmer was the subject of more than a quarter of all news stories about the Games during the first week of competition. Gymnast Nastia Liukin was a distant second, appearing in 4 percent of coverage, according to the survey conducted by Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. All of Phelps' fellow male swimmers combined made up just 3 percent.

The center studied U.S. press coverage of the Olympics and China generally in the week leading up to the Games and during the first week of competition.

Swimming, gymnastics and track and field dominated news coverage. Not surprisingly since it has a ratings and financial stake in the Games, but questionable journalistically, NBC devoted three times as much airtime during its news programs to the Olympics than its competitors. NBC's Today Show and Nightly News together devoted nearly half their airtime to the Games or to stories about China, according to the study.

The analysis was based on more than 390 news stories about China or the Olympic Games that appeared from Aug. 3 through Aug. 17. The majority of data came from 48 different news outlets, including print, online, TV, and radio. Live coverage of the events themselves were not included in the survey.

Related earlier post: Men Dominate Olympics TV Coverage