Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina's "Crowd Out" of Other News Coverage

I’ve noticed recently that the Iraq War is barely making the news. The media is now focused on; 1. Hurricane Katrina’s Aftermath, 2. gas prices , 3. Judge Roberts Confirmation hearings, 4. start of the school year, 5. Start of the football season. It would interest me if the Pentagon is attempting to take advantage of this “quiet period” by stepping up its operations against insurgents. The media’s role as a “watchdog” is spread thin when there are so many events taking place simultaneously. We cannot be engaged on all topics at the same time and this may provide an opportunity for our military to achieve some of its goals that it may view as not politically “sellable” when the public is focused on body counts from Iraq.

Recently, economists have been studying the media’s role in shaping how we think about public policy. I’ve always wondered why we read the news? Is it for pleasure or to acquire information? On the supply side, how does TV news and the New York Times choose what to put on its front page? Do the repeated images of New Orleans’ victims spur readers to donate more money or to support public policies that will rebuild damaged areas?